Machine Translation

Why it is important to have a customized solution

In the time of globalization, translations are getting more and more important. Just think about webpages of companies for a moment. Imagine you have a company located in Germany. The corresponding webpage should be written in German, right? But if you need to appeal to a global market, you probably want to have it in English too. Now let’s say that your company is near the border with France, or maybe you have a lot of business relations in France. Now you want to have an additional webpage translation for French. This is a lot of work to maintain.

If you want to make the scenario worse, imagine your company needs to write manuals in different languages. Now you have to translate each new manual into different languages. (For example, in Switzerland, translations into German, French and Italian are a must-have.) This translation process needs to be optimized – not only the translation time, but also the quality of the translations itself.  Machine translations are an efficient way to do this. However, depending on the solution, this can help or worsen the translation quality.

Let us consider the quality of a translation: How would you define and evaluate it? For the reader of the translation, you want it to be smooth and understandable – and obvious that the translation is correct. As the owner of the translation, you have additional concerns; for example, if you write manuals, there is a high probability that technical terms have specific translations which never should be different. The same applies for any word: depending on the topic of the texts you want to translate, different translations of the same word are needed.

Let me make a simple example: In German, there is the word “Pass,” which can either mean a passport, a mountain pass, or the pass of a ball in sports. In context, the meaning of the usage is probably clear. If you are a government, chances are you are talking about passports. If you are a nature magazine, it is probably the mountain pass, and if you write about soccer, it is the pass of the ball between two players. However, sometimes multiple contexts apply even within the same text.  For example, if you write about hiking in the Swiss mountains, you may need to make reference to not only the mountain pass to enjoy, but also the fact that you need to take your passport with you because you are crossing borders. Therefore, fixating the translation of a single word (e.g. “Pass” shall always be translated to “passport”) would be dangerous.

 There are similar issues with writing manuals, but additionally, for certain terms you don’t want a translation – or there is a specific translation. For example, if you write a manual about how to write text in uppercase, and you want to include the instruction: “Press the button ‘caps lock.’” In German, this button is called “Feststelltaste,” but it is labeled on the keyboard with either with the symbol ⇪ or ‘caps lock’. In such a case where you write about which button you need to press, you don’t want to translate ‘caps lock,’ but rather keep the English term as it is written on the keyboard in order to help the user find it.

Long explanation short: If the machine translation is used for a specific topic, it needs to be customized in order to be able to handle the topic specific requirements.

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