08.31.2011 by Peter Argondizzo

Transparency with machine translation

Transparency in the translation production process is incredibly important. Now more than ever, customers should know who has worked on their projects.

I recently wrote about using the machine translation for the right type of job is acceptable. Using it for the wrong kind of job is deception. In an attempt to increase margins, many language service providers (LSP) have been using machine translation as part of their traditional workflow and then hiring linguists to clean up the mess. If the LSP does not divulge to the client that the first step in the process is machine translation that is a deceptive practice.

One of my issues with this charade is that machine translation is still not very good. By asking an editor to clean up the output, you are placing undue strain on the workflow. Have you ever edited a document that was poorly written? As an editor, you end up focusing on major issues like incorrect usage of terminology, false friends, incorrect comprehension and improper word order. Basically, the whole process lowers the bar on what is deemed acceptable for translation. Do we really want our customers to read sub-par material?

My second issue is about disclosure. One of the most difficult things to determine when shopping for translation services is trying to make an apples-to-apples comparison of services. It is very difficult to accurately compare vendors and know if you are really getting comparable service. Using machine translation without divulging this to the client just makes comparison shopping more difficult.

As a consumer of translation services you should always demand to understand the workflow and who is working on your projects. Do you know how your translation was created?