Technology is taking over most areas of our lives, sometimes making things easier and sometimes making it a whole lot more difficult. Anyone who uses a computer will know how frustrating it can be when things don’t work.
Technology and languages is a fascinating field which can bring benefits to many users –there are many apps and programs out there which offer assistance to a linguistically challenged traveller, from earpieces like Pilot earphones to phone apps which can translate speech or signs to help a traveller understand his environment and communicate more freely.
Anyone who uses a computer will most likely use a spellchecker or grammar checker before sending an email or producing a document. These linguistic tools have been around for a long time and have become increasing sophisticated over the years, to the point where they can now analyse text produced to ensure it is not only accurate but well written.
In the translation world, we have a range of specialist tools at our disposal. From terminology checkers, termbases and translation memory tools, to machine translation and even crowd-assisted translation tools. Some people think that all our translations are produced by software programs, that the text can be reproduced in a different language at the touch of a button. Indeed, systems are available which can do this, but as we know, the quality of the output is debatable and certainly not suitable for most professional purposes.
Machine translation systems, such as Google Translate or Systran, are developing fast, are learning new skills and using new rules to improve their output. They are unquestionably becoming smarter and more helpful, although for the kinds of projects we at MTT handle, they are currently not good enough.
Machine translation uses an algorithm which tells it what each individual word means with little awareness of the sentence as a whole. A professional translator can be used to edit the output of machine translated text, however this can produce unsatisfactory results and is best limited to texts where there is no marketing message to be considered or critical content.
CAT (computer assisted translation) tools however, now play a key part in many a translator’s armoury. These tools, such as MemoQ or SDL Trados, essentially create a database of sentences which can be drawn upon if text is repeated. Combined with terminology databases which specify a client’s particular preferred terminology, these are the main tools that help keep client’s costs down and texts consistent. Not every document will be suitable for CAT tool translation, for example handwritten or scanned documents cannot be processed easily by the system, and not all file formats are suitable.
Technology is certainly one of the main drivers for improving the speed and consistency of translation services, although we still need to remember that translation remains an art, performed by highly skilled humans with years of experience. It is still essentially a manual task which is difficult to speed up, requiring time for research and thought and space for reviewing.
At MTT we make the best use possible of technology where appropriate and trust our team of skilled human linguists to provide the translations you need within a reasonable timeframe. If you are interested in the technology we use and want to know more, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 0844 856 1086.