Reading time: 7 mins
Machine translation was not so popular a decade ago, with the quality of translations it produced ranging from questionable to disastrous. But times have changed and the technology has improved markedly over the years. With the recent development of deep learning, new and more powerful tools have emerged, while existing tools better reproduce texts in target languages.
Companies’ requirements for translation services vary greatly and change based on factors such as availability, content type, and financial constraints. Depending on your needs, you can choose from numerous tools, programs, and technologies to translate your content. You may find automation sufficient for your business and goals, especially if your translation requirements are for internal communication only, or discover that the skills and individual approach of a translator are still indispensable for the reputation of your brand.
What types of machine translation are there?
Simply put, machine translation is the process of using artificial intelligence (AI) to convert text from one language to another without human help. Today, neural machine translation systems can do more than translate word for word, and even sometimes understand the interaction between words and sentences. The ability to translate text automatically is advancing rapidly with the goal to refine AI and produce relevant and accurate translations of content.
Rule-Based Machine Translation (RBMT) analyzes each word separately and applies the grammatical rules of both languages. This literal translation without regard to context or meaning was one of the first attempts at machine translation.
Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) considers phrases or even entire sentences. To find the right translation for your content, translation engines essentially search existing databases for groups of words or phrases that match your input. This is an improvement on the rule-based approach, but it is still not adequate and may not work with complex texts.
Neural Machine Translation (NMT) considers whole sentences. This technological innovation is far-reaching and is based on a broader framework of the meaning of words and the links between them. Similarly to SMT, it uses a database, but is able to consider the context of the content as a whole.
What are the most accurate and reliable machine translation services online?
Of the many online machine translation services, the following ones might prove useful, provided that the circumstances allow it. These kinds of automated translation tools should be used with caution, especially if you are not familiar with one or the other language. They are useful for providing the user with a rudimentary understanding of a text, but in most cases should not be used in official communication without post-editing.
- Google Translate
From a worldwide vantage point, Google Translate is the free machine translation system with the broadest coverage. This Internet behemoth pioneered the immediate translation of 108 languages and has been available online for over a decade. Not limited to widely spoken languages like English, French, or Spanish, it can translate between minority tongues like Nepalese, Pashto, Telugu, Chewa, or Tajik. However, the quality varies considerably depending on the language pair, because smaller languages have smaller databases. A useful feature is that it can detect the source language without any user input. Any file format or document type can be translated (PDF, word, oral conversation), which is another reason why Google Translate is such a widespread tool, especially when it comes to comprehension of foreign text or preparing translations suited for a more informal context. Keep in mind that some formulations are still translated word for word without context.
Deep Learning (or DeepL for short) is a sophisticated machine translation technology, although its current use is constrained by a lack of available applications and customization options. A big database (including its Linguee multilingual translation search engine) is combined with AI in this system to give accurate translations in a dozen languages. This is free, but a paid version can be integrated with a CAT tool with higher privacy settings.
- Systran Premium Translator
Systran Premium Translator is a comprehensive tool that is only available to qualified translators in a variety of fields as a premium paid edition. Legal fees might go up to €1,000. The tool works online or offline and can be used for documents, web pages, and emails. It brings together multi-document management, review, exploration, structured file translations, and other useful features.
- Microsoft Translator
Microsoft’s tool supports translation into over 40 languages. To differentiate itself from the competition, an app facilitates direct conversations between users. Built-in voice recognition and translation tools enable you to have conversations with people from various countries without needing to learn their languages. Language packs can be downloaded in advance and used to translate any language on the fly. This translation software has an engaging user interface and produces accurate basic translations.
Reverso is a free, community-driven translation platform where users work together to translate and enhance information in real-time. Although the site’s aesthetics may take some getting used to, its features and translation quality make up for any shortcomings. Reverso’s translations are accurate and up-to-date. Around ten languages are represented on its panel (such as Japanese, English, French, and Spanish) and changing from one to the other is simple. This translation website features several other helpful language resources (dictionary, spelling, and conjugation checker).
- Babylon Translation
Babylon is a free tool that offers 75 applicable languages and a large database with millions of translated words. It incorporates dictionaries and glossaries, which allow you to translate and search for synonyms or antonyms in the language of your choice. The thesaurus helps you translate specific terms in specialized and technical fields by finding the right word according to the context.
When do I need the human touch?
We hope this overview will help you better understand the pros and cons of these translation tools. However, it is important to remember that while the newest machine translation tools do understand context to a certain extent, they do not yet reach the ability of the human brain to pick up nuances in meaning. As anyone working in the language services industry will tell you: the devil is in the details and here are other aspects of translation that must be taken into account.
Note that if you submit your content to a free tool, it is not private and others may be able to see your text. So free tools cannot be used for confidential content and even some paid versions cannot be fully trusted with sensitive data. If safety is a concern for your company, it is best to entrust your documents to a reliable translation agency that signs NDAs with their clients and takes cyber security seriously.
You can be sure of receiving high-quality translations if you work with a reputable translation agency that employs expert translators. These experts have the skills to capture all the nuances of the language. They are proficient in the source and target languages. Accuracy, reliability, and typography (which a machine cannot do!) are characteristic of their translations.
Machine translation software is still far from being able to replace human linguists. However, it may be useful to simplify your work and clarify the meaning of a short passage. Note also that quality varies considerably depending on the language pair. If you want translations from or into a language that is less widely spoken, the free tool may not have a big enough database to do a good job.
There is no room for approximation when the stakes are high. Our professional translators can guarantee that your translation will be accurate, reliable, and kept strictly confidential. Enquire about our services by writing to us at email@example.com.