This is a guest post by Roman Mironov of Velior, a single-language vendor located in Russia. Velior specializes in Russian translations and has been in the field since 2005. You can contact Roman through his blog at http://www.velior.ru/blog/en. Disclaimer: Views expressed in this post are strictly those of the author and do not reflect an endorsement by GTS or any of its employees.
Are you considering using MT to save on translation costs, but not sure whether it can fit any of your translation needs?
Aside from all controversy around MT, it has one clear advantage. The level of quality it delivers is the same or even higher than that produced by unprofessional translators who compete on price rather than quality.
Whenever I see a subpar translation, I feel very sorry for the client who—usually unknowingly—paid a lot of money for something so worthless. Just a few months ago a translation agency asked us to translate an update for a number of learning programs geared towards managers. Since this was an update, we were supposed to re-use the translations made by the previous vendor. And those translations turned out to be among the worst that I have ever seen. I felt sorry for the client and the agency, which both got ripped off by the previous vendor, and I couldn’t help wondering whether using MT would have made more sense for both of them. The client would have paid much less, while the agency’s margin would have likely remained the same.
As a result of seeing such examples and the quality of the translations that we receive from some freelance candidates, I now believe that translators who offer rock-bottom prices tend to produce quality that is as low as raw MT output. And why would someone want to pay for a human translation, when a machine translation is so much easier and cheaper to get? With the progress of machine translation, I don’t think buying low-quality human translations makes sense anymore.
What I suggest is this: Sometimes, a client has lower quality expectations due to a limited budget. For instance, a company is submitting documents to the authorities for legal reasons, but no one is really going to read them. The company realizes this and is okay with the low quality of translation. In this scenario, going with the machine translation might be a better choice than spending time looking for the cheapest translator and then paying this translator.
Both have their disadvantages
Both machine translator and low-quality human translator have the same drawback: They make errors:
- Both translate literally, producing translations that are difficult to comprehend.
- A machine doesn’t have a clue about what it’s translating. The same is often true for a human translator who doesn’t make an effort to understand the meaning properly.
So, if both make errors, neither is better from the quality standpoint.
MT has clear advantages
While the quality is probably comparable, MT also has its benefits:
- MT can follow a list of a client’s terminology better (as long as you use MT software that supports uploading terminology lists).
- MT doesn’t make the types of errors that an automated QA is designed to detect, such as misspelling or wrong numbers.
- MT is often much faster.
- MT is often much cheaper.
- Buying MT reduces a client’s expectations. When the client engages a human translator, even at a bargain-basement price, it’s natural for the client to expect something worthwhile in return. But when he gets poor quality, the client tends to get angry anyway, because frustration about being ripped off is only human. But with MT, the client’s expectations are usually so low that it doesn’t matter.
When price is the most important consideration and you’re fine with subpar quality, using MT may be a viable alternative to a cheap MT a cheap and low-quality human translator.
So, are you using MT to cut translation costs?