When you need to translate something fast, the first thing that may come to your mind is a machine translation site like Google Translate, Bablefish, or Bing Translator.
It’s easy and free. You get a ‘sense translation’ which serves your purpose, more or less, and you can move on with your day.
It’s so easy, in fact, that you’re bound to come back the next time you come across a word or phrase in an alien language. But is using a translation site a good idea when it comes to business content?
What Machine Translation Sites are Good For
Despite their bad reputation, machine translation sites aren’t totally useless. In fact, they’re key for a number of things:
- Travel—When you’re overseas or communicating with someone who’s visiting your country, you can quickly look up words and phrases you need to complete the point that’s currently escaping you.
- E-Discovery—Lawyers use MT sometimes when they have to sift through loads of international documentation. However, free online translation tools are best avoided if there’s confidentiality at stake.
- Getting the gist of text—When you’re looking to partner with a company abroad, you can understand their content just enough to decide whether or not to work with them.
But there’s one thing for which these machine translation sites are infamous: poor translation quality. You also stand the risk of your site being penalized by Google, because raw MT content is viewed as duplicate content.
No Data Security
When you run a block of text through a machine translation site, there’s no guarantee that someone—one of your competitors or a cybercriminal—won’t be able to find the data you’ve just entered and use it against you. You may not care if someone finds your publicly displayed web content, but if you’re translating internal communications or HR documents, things can become complicated between employees who are in or out of the loop on certain business decisions.
Paid MT Engines Are Better, but Come at a Cost
There’s a range of paid MT engines available that can be trained in your specific domain and source and target languages. However, this is not a cheap option, nor can the training be done quickly. Also, considerable amounts of text are needed to train the engines. It’s usually only the larger enterprises that are able to bear the cost and wait till the engines are trained. On the flip side, it’s usually only the larger enterprises that regularly produce massive amounts of content that can be feasibly translated through MT. Even in such cases, human translators are usually employed to edit the raw MT output and such output is again used in training.
In summary, machine translation has a place in today’s age of continuous and massive content production, but free online translation tools have very limited use. Enterprises must stay away from them and instead choose scalable translation software that is flexible enough to accommodate all translation methods.
Image sources: BigStock