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Accutranslate advocates human translators, because nothing yet developed has the sophistication of a human translation. However, we like to keep an eye on what’s happening in the translation world, and to share that with you.

Machine translation

Up to now machine translation systems have been the main way of getting a non-human translation. Machine translation uses extremely large dictionaries of words and phrases, and databanks of previous translations. The translation programme hunts through a huge number of previous translations, looks at how these translations have rendered particular words and phrases, and uses statistical probability to decide which translation best fits.

Machine translation can give you a quick answer, but it can lead to odd, wrong or embarrassing translations. Over time this method has been improved by user feedback and fine-tuning of the databases of texts, but is still far from providing the quality of a human translation. In a business context odd translations can be embarrassing and potentially cause offence, in some businesses a poor translation can even be dangerous.

Translation using artificial neural networks

The latest translation systems are based on artificial neural networks. These are much closer to the way a human brain – and therefore a human translator – works. Algorithms are used to choose translations and this leads to a much better translation, though still with some difficulties – after all, the machine cannot (yet!) “hear” how the translation sounds in the same way as a person. A human translation will recognise a translation that sounds odd, and will be able to correct it, these systems cannot.

When will machine translation catch up with human translators’ skills?

The ideal for businesses would be a babel fish in your ear (the babel fish, in Douglas Adams’ cult classic “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” interpreted from one language to another perfectly – the downside being that you had to put the fish in your ear!) and a translation tool in your hand that would take a chunk of text and translate it perfectly to another language. With artificial neural networks that day may be getting closer, but it is still a long way off, and won’t be with us for many years.

In the meantime, the secret to good communication in other languages and in other countries is good translation – you can’t afford to take short cuts on this if you are doing business abroad. Pick up the phone and give Accutranslate a call on 0800 466 1335 or send us an email at info@accutranslate.co.uk