Should You Use Machine Translation (MT)?

Machine Translators, sometimes abbreviated to “MT,” are increasingly common. These include platforms like Google Translate and more sophisticated, fully automated systems. Most commonly, you can speak or type into these platforms and then have a translation provided to you. For the most part, quality solutions like this will be paid. So, should you use machine translation? There are occasions when platforms like these will suffice. Other times, however, they are riddled with potential error and could set you up for failure. Let’s review the basic platforms and when or when not to use them.

Machine Translation

What are Machine Translators?

Machine translators are created using fairly straightforward technology. The software contains all of the basic grammar, syntax, vocabulary and conversational elements of a language. When you enter or speak content into an app like this, it can either type or robo-speak your input back to you. The translated result is much better than it used to be. Of course, it isn’t perfect.

People use machine translators recreationally and when on vacation. These platforms are really optimized for personal use. From a business perspective, you can see the potential pitfalls and shortcomings. For example, any error or lack of nuance could distort your message. There are issues of verifiability and certifiability. We’ll get to those in a second.

Should You Use Machine Translators for Your Business?

Machine translators could have a valuable role in your business. There are numerous scenarios in which you want to conduct unofficial, casual conversation with potential clients or prospects. In marketing efforts, networking, lead nurturing and more, MTs could play a role.

For example, some interfaces like this can be used to fuel chatbots. This is a plugin that you install on your website to engage with customers. You’ll see it on numerous sites: it’s simply a text-box that will offer a real-time conversation with a marketing or customer service representative. Of course, there often isn’t anyone there. But the chatbot is set up to be able to answer common questions and respond to you in an accurate way.

If you have an international business with clients who speak many languages, using a machine translator to fill the text fields for your chatbot could have value. It’s a casual conversation that is ultimately leading them to make stronger interactions with your brand.

Google Translate

When Not to Use Machine Translators

There are obviously many instances in which machine translation could hurt your business. Anything more than a casual conversation has risks of liability in which miscommunication could be costly and damaging. As you make this decision, it’s important to consider a few factors:

  • Is this conversation representing your brand?
  • Are any business decisions being made in this exchange?
  • Is there a margin for error or misunderstanding in what you are conveying?

If you judge that a conversation is critical for your business and there is no room for error, you should probably hire a human translator.

Machine Translators v. Human Translators

While machine translators have the advantage of being always-on and usable, their usefulness does have limits. When you are deciding whether to use a machine translator or hire a human translator, here’s what you have to keep in mind:

Machine Translators:

  • Cheap
  • Fast
  • Potential for error
  • Incapable of interaction
  • Offer no clarification
  • Are not certified
  • Are not verifiable

Human Translators:

  • Affordable but more of an investment
  • 24-hours
  • Very low potential for error
  • Can interact
  • Can offer clarifications and reword for better understanding
  • Can be certified
  • Are verifiable

For jobs like document certification, real-time video translation, event translation, and more, it’s probably in your best interest to hire a human translator.

Go here to learn more about the (human) services that Translators USA offers.

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