We often get asked by clients about the difference between all the kinds of translation options out there. Plenty of translation industry folks get confused, too. So, let’s jump right in.
As the name implies, this is translation services provided by professional human translators who work for an organization (translation agency, company, firm etc) or who work for themselves freelance. Regardless of how translators choose to deliver their translation services, professional translators are:
- Bilingual (being fluent in a learnt language they translate from into their mother tongue)
- University educated (although not an absolute requirement)
- Trained and experienced in translation
- Skilled in the use of various translation tools
- Experts in their subject matter of choice (such as law, technology, finance etc.)
As you can see from the definition above, being bilingual by itself does not qualify a person as a translator. More importantly, professional translators only translate into their mother tongue (never the other way around).
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This term is cause for no small amount of confusion! “Computer translation” is a generic term that actually refers to 2 completely different types of translation using computers. These are namely Machine Translation (MT) and Computer Assisted Translation (CAT).
In machine translation, a human translator supports the machine. In other words, a computer program (software) translates the source text, with the resultant translated text then being edited by the human translator, if it is edited at all.
In terms of quality possible, machine translation is a thoroughly discredited technology with limited utility.
In computer assisted translation, a machine supports the human translator. That is, a professional human translator translates the source text with the aid of a computer program (software). The heart of this technology is what’s called:
- Terminology base (database store of preferred translated single words)
- Translation memory, or TM (database store of previously translated short sentence or "segments")
Used appropriately by experienced professionals, computer assisted translation has potential to improve efficiency, although quality is somewhat shy of the level of professional translation. In addition, the benefits of CAT vary according to the type of source language.
The Hybrid - Post Editing Machine Translation (PEMT)
Euphemistically termed Post Editing Translation, this is where a qualified human translator edits and corrects machine translated text. The thinking behind this type of hybrid translation is an attempt to combine the best of both worlds: the speed and low cost of machine translation coupled with the accuracy of professional human translators.
In theory, PEMT sounds like a good idea. In practice, however, the results are questionable, not least because the human component of this formula -professional human translators- tend to shy away from this kind of translation work. Here’s an excellent article by a professional translator that explains why PEMT may not be the right option for your project
Most people are familiar with crowdsourcing, although they may not necessary know it. Ever used Wikipedia? This is the same approach used in translation crowdsourcing, where many human translators work on the translation of a source text. Translators respond to an “open call” with each participant being assigned a different section to translate.
Much the same as Wikipedia, since many people - a crowd, essentially - do the translation, quality issues, such as quality of contributors and final product, are to be expected. In addition, crowdsoucing is notoriously plagued by “Editor Wars” where numerous editors continuously override others’ editing. The benefit of translation crowdsourcing is its ability to speed up the translation process.
The translation cloud is a collaborative translation technique that has been enabled by advances in cloud computing technology, and, as such, is a fairly recent development in the translation industry. In cloud translation, multiple human translators collaborate in real time simultaneously in the same workspace with shared resources. (This should not be confused with translation crowdsourcing, which is not a collaborative technique.)
The purpose of translation clouds is to realize improvements in efficiency, communications between translation project participants, and to reduce or eliminate the managerial tasks associate with projects. The introduction into shared resources of computer translation (i.e. machine translation), along with the practice in some translation companies of using novice translators (to cut costs and thereby enhance profit), has brought into question the quality achievable with translation clouds.
About the Author
Ivan Vandermerwe is the CEO of SAECULII YK, the owner of Tokyo Translation Services Japan. Visit SAECULII for the latest professional case studies, articles and news on Japanese Translation Services
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