is growing that translation software (known as machine or
auto-translation) is ready for prime time. With it, you will be able to
drop text into a field, press a button, and receive the results
automatically. To see how far we have come, my staff and I ran a few
tests using a variety of translation software, ranging from free to
expensive. The results almost took our breath away.
When you input in English: For U.K. English, press hash (#).
The result is:
German: For Great Britain English, press a big mess.
Japanese: For the United Kingdom English, publications commutated meat dishes.
As a translation professional, I wiped the sweat from my brow in
relief. I can keep my day job; software is not ready to replace me just
yet. But the time is coming soon when translation software will be
available at high quality and for low cost.
Indeed the future for
auto-translation is bright. Although no software has conquered
perfection, one day it will. Then you will be able to press one button
to translate your interface, Web site, voice prompts, email, and
telephone conversations into multiple languages and regenerate prompt
files with text-to-speech.
Machine Translations That Almost Work
general business documents, help pages, and thick manuals, machine
translation is powerful and saves thousands of dollars. Software can be
trained for repeated expressions, such as This agreement is by and
between, or Click on the print icon. Most manuals are now translated by
auto-translation or memory-aid software and then cleaned by human
drudge translators, who tediously perform the same task every day.
results improve the closer the target language grammatical order is
to the original. Intelligibility also improves when fewer adjectives,
metaphors, imagery, and technology expressions are contained in the
When you input in English: Your ticket is scheduled for pickup on June 1st at 1:22 p.m.
The result is:
Mandarin: Your ticket in June 1 schedule hitchhiking at 1:22 p.m.
Russian: Your ticket is planned for a sensitive element on June 1 for 1:22 p.m.
German: Your ticket will be held for recording on June 1 around 01:22 pee emm.
Japanese: 1:22 PM your ticket is the June 1 will be scheduled for shipment.
translation will not attract customers or sell your product. Not yet.
It has no persona, creates no corporate image, and engenders no
emotional impact. IBM makes good auto-translation software, but does not
use that software to translate its main Web pages. Why? Because
IBM understands that there is more to attracting sales than word-matching. Sales require expressions with cultural impact and relevance,
a need not met by software. But if you are a reporter searching for
articles around the world on a certain subject, machine translation is
brilliantly effective in narrowing the scope.
professionals, auto-translation can have dire consequences. The most
serious problems are introduced by complex sentences with multiple
subphrases that involve from and to expressions, dates, and times. When
translated, these phrases must often move to a different part of the
sentence, or are spoken in flipped order, and degenerate into
incomprehensibility. For example:
When you input in English: Please say the name of the city you are starting from, followed by the city name you are traveling to.
The result is:
Spanish: Please to say the name of the city you yes to be starting from, to follow by the city name you yes to be traveling to.
Mandarin: Your name says you are from, city name follow start your travel city.
Japanese: Depending on your journey you have to be followed by the name of the city began to say the name of a city.
results from machine translation are achieved with one subject, one
verb, and one direct object. Keep sentences short. Do not abbreviate,
shorten, or add metaphors. Remember that out of sight, out of mind becomes invisible insane,
and keep text simple and direct if it goes to translation software.
Considering the time it takes to train translation software to
sometimes be correct, you could have hired a professional translator to
always be correct. Now. At this time in history. But the future is
Sue Ellen Reager is CEO
and founder of @International Services, a global translation services
company and developer of localization software. She can be reached at
|Learn more about the companies mentioned in this article in the Speech Technology Buyer Guide: