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Comparing Human Localization with Machine Translation

Many people venture into the world of language translation services seeking information and quotes for potential projects, but do they realize that there are varying levels of quality associated with those services? And that those quality levels will affect whether their translated content will speak to their desired audience effectively? Choosing the method by which your content is translated will inevitably affect the quality of your final content. In this article, we will explore the differences between using native-speaking human linguists and using machine translation, and the implications of each.

Understanding What “Machine Translation” Means

The process of machine translation involves inputting content for translation through a translation engine, such as Google or Amazon. These machines are “trained” with previously translated content from human translators and other sources, and use algorithms to choose words and phrases in the target language that seem most analogous to the original content. The more content the machine processes, the more it “learns”. Because of this, using machine translation means that your content is translated literally, and word-for-word. This method can suffice in instances where nuance and subtlety aren’t important, and readers just need to get at the gist of what is being said. This method is less appropriate or effective in situations where grammar and context are important, or where the reader may need a full and thorough comprehension of the source content.

Understanding What “Human Localization” Means

When your content needs to be accurately localized for a specific region or demographic, there is no substitute for using two native-speaking linguists for your project. The first linguist will translate the content, and the second will then review the original translation, ensuring no errors were made. Both linguists will focus on translating using the proper conventions of your target language, and being mindful of the cultural nuances of your target audience. These important nuances are what distinguish one culture from another, and they include things such as etiquette, figurative speech, units of currency or measurement, and even legal requirements. This two-person method of translation and editing should be used any time accuracy is required, context is important, and your localized content will be seen by your target audience.

What is Machine Translation with Human Post-Edits?

It’s become increasingly popular for some language service providers to offer what’s called Machine Translation Post-Editing (MTPE). This process involves content being translated by a machine, and then edited by a human linguist, whose job it is to “clean up” the machine’s work. This method is faster than using all native-speaking human linguists, but comes with its own challenges. The main issue is that the machine often cannot provide proper sentence structure or accurately recognize and replicate the context of your source material. This means that the human linguist often needs to re-translate the majority of the machine’s original work.

Benefits of Using a Company with Native-Speaking Human Linguists

Language service companies who use native-speaking human linguists have the ability to find the ideal subject matter experts for your project. These translators and editors will have specific levels of education and will hold certifications (technical, medical, legal, etc.) that make them uniquely suited to produce an informed and nuanced translation of your source material. You may also ask your language service company to use linguists who can translate at specific reading levels, or who have familiarity with a specific region or dialect. This way, you can be sure that any specific cultural nuances relevant to your content and target audience are appropriately addressed.

What to Discuss When Talking with a Language Service Provider

Whenever you’re getting quotes and information from a language service provider, you need to be sure that you’re getting what you’re being charged for. Always be sure to ask these important questions:

  • What is the process used for the translation?
  • What is the process used for quality assurance?
  • How much of your project is completed in-house as opposed to being completed out-of-house by sub-contractors?
  • What is the process should edits be needed after the project is delivered?

Understanding What’s Being Offered Helps You Make the Ideal Choice

With the information covered in this article, you now have a better understanding of how language service companies will handle your localization projects, and are better prepared to be sure that your choice of language service provider will meet your needs. In most cases, if you receive multiple quotes and see dramatically different rates represented, the differences in processes explained above are quite likely the reason. You should always ask questions to be sure that you are comparing apples-to-apples when it comes to accuracy, process and quality control.

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