As online marketing has become increasingly important to all businesses, translation services too have evolved and expanded. One of the major arguments today, is whether machine translations are good enough now, or indeed, will ever be good enough to provide a suitable standard of service.
Recently, it has been revealed that Google has begun charging businesses to receive machine translations. Throughout this article, we will look into the evolution of translation, and indeed machine translation, in a bid to discover whether such a cost can be justified.
How Have Translation Services Evolved?
One of the major ways that professional translation services have evolved is through localization. This is both within a geographical and an industry-specific sense. This means that a translation service will be conducted with consideration to both the linguistics and culture of a specific location.
Taking the example of French, which is an official language in 29 countries, it is quite clear that the French spoken in West Africa is different to that spoken in Europe, Canada, South-East Asia, the Caribbean and all other French-speaking regions. Indeed, the dialects and cultures can even vary hugely even within a single state.
With regards to industry, many professional translation agencies now ensure that they have experts within specific industries, such as; medicine, engineering, IT, Law and Science, where specific vocabulary and documentation is used. This is especially important within sectors where health and safety issues can be the result of poor translation services.
With this in mind, the very best translation agencies now have a comprehensive network of translators, spreading throughout a variety of sectors and locations. Many also have systems in place to ensure that each translation job is given to the most capable team of translators. This is especially important when dealing with niche texts, minority languages or rare language pairings.
The origins of machine translations, hails back to the 17th century and Renee Descartes, although the first demonstration is thought to have been conducted by a Georgetown research team, in 1954. As with many technologies, its real growth came alongside the rise of the internet, and in 1997, Alta Babel-Fish was racking up half a million requests per day.
Like many other aspects of the internet world, it was eventually Google who took over with regards to online machine translation services, with the launch of Google Translate, which, as of 2012, claimed to translate enough text each day to fill around 1 million books.
The argument, which rages on, has always been with regards to the quality and accuracy of such translations. Indeed, a simple experiment of translating a phrase through several languages and then back to the source tongue can prove its inadequacies. A comedy group even recently put the ‘Fresh Prince of Belair’ theme tune through the Google Translate ‘filter’ and then performed the resultant songs.
Businesses Paying For Machine Translations
In February 2012, it was announced that Google Translate would be releasing a paid version of the software, for business and commercial use. Jeff Chin, the manager of Google Translate, announced that companies would pay $20 per million characters – working out at approximately $0.05 per page.
Although this is, of course, much less than one would have to pay for a professional translation service, the quality too is far removed. Indeed, simply by searching for Google Translate on Google, you’ll find that the majority of the search results are related to humorous anecdotes, which highlight the software’s shortcomings.
Quite simply, when it comes to professional translation services, you can’t beat a human expert. Even though, of course, human error is a possibility, it is much less likely than machine error, where there is a clear lack of cultural, linguistic and specialist knowledge, and with professional translation agencies evolving their services, for any business serious about its online marketing, machine translations are, quite simply, a no-go zone.