With the advent of machine translation technology, more and more translation firms are using the technology without disclosing the practice to their clients. This is downright dishonest and carries a huge risk of invalidating the hard work our industry has accomplished in gaining the trust of clients.
Here is why I see this as a problem and how I see the current situation. Many larger agencies in our industry are offering professional translation that uses machine translation as the first step of the process and relies on an editor to clean up the mess without disclosing the true workflow. In essence, the firms have cut down their input costs while maintaining the same price to the client. Margins goes up for language service providers and quality of the final translation goes down.
Since we are a professional service our clients rely on us to create accurate translations by using the time proven workflow of translation, independent proofreading, formatting and final check by a project manager. The cost is based on the human labor hours required to achieve those steps. Our clients (and I am sure the clients of our competitors) expect this level of service. Any company that offers a professional service should be used to offering their clients a very transparent process.
Would you tolerate paying your $375 an hour attorney the same fee if he used a computer to generate a contract automatically? Would you pay $50 for an entree that was supposed to be created by a master chef when it was actually a pre-made frozen dinner?
This situation smells exactly like the environment at the advent of translation memory technology. When the technology first came out firms were using the technology to improve margins. Cost savings were not passed on to the client.
I have no problem with the use of machine translation. The only problem I have is anything short of full disclosure to the client. I can not control how the industry uses the technology, I can only call for full disclosure. Clients need to question the source of their translations. Clients should demand proper reporting of project contributors on each and every project.
We will soon release our own machine translation solution but it will be a standalone solution. Clients will know exactly what they are getting. More details to follow soon…
Peter founded Argo Translation, originally based in Milwaukee, WI, in 1995. Prior to transferring his love of all things international and his savvy business expertise into Chicago’s premier translation agency, he attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he graduated with a major in finance and human resource management. After graduation he went on to become an Italian translator and project manager for an international medical equipment manufacturer and major airline.