Machine Translation and Post Editing

Machine Translation with Post Editing process

Machine Translation with Post Editing process

The idea behind machine translation is to provide an efficient means of translating large volumes of content while trying to maintain a level of quality similar to a human translation. This sounds like a good idea, but the reality of machine translation is its lack of quality and consistency control. You should view Machine Translation (MT) as a productivity tool not as a replacement for human translation. It is an assistant that helps the translator speed up the translation process. Now, you might think a Translation Memory (TM) does this as well, but a TM only contains previously translated content and is only helpful if the new content is similar and in the same context. This is where Machine Translation and Post-Editing (MT-PE) comes into play. Once you machine translate a document, you can have a human post editor edit and review the translations and correct inconsistency in terminology and context. Doing this over a period of time will also improve the machine translation engine when it is updated with the edited content.

The MT I am referring to is not Google Translate. In order to get the best results from a Machine Translation, you should consider building a machine translation engine. You can build it by importing translation memories you have for a particular industry and training the machine translation engine with previously translated content. It is important you build it with over 1 million translated words. The larger the amount of translated content, the better the quality of the machine translation engine. The algorithms built into the newest machine translation software allow it to “learn” from previous human translations as it builds new machine translation segments. This provides a better basis for MT-PE because you have accurate human translations as the basis of your engine. It also makes the post editing more efficient because over time you have better results from the machine translation engine. You can build multiple machine translation engines for different industries and continue to improve the quality of the engine when you update it with the post-edited segments. Over time you are building a better and more precise machine translation engine and reducing the post editing time of future projects.

Before you start building a machine translation memory or hire a company to do it, you should create a glossary of common or industry specific terms that you want to translate. A human translator needs to translate these terms and then your in-country reviewer should approve these translations. Having a list of industry specific terminology is key to developing a consistent translation memory. Once these terms are translated and approved, you can use the translated term base with the machine translation engine you are building. The translated term base works as a guide for the editor to correct any inconsistencies the MT might introduce. This is why post editing machine translations is an important step to improving the quality.

The key to successfully post-editing machine translations is to set up guidelines for editing content. These guidelines are similar to those you use for editing human translations, but you have to also maintain as much of the raw machine translation content as possible in order for the machine’s algorithms to continue to learn the patterns in the translation style and replicate that in the future. You should aim to correct inconsistencies in terminology by referencing the term base and aim for grammatically, syntactically, and semantically correct translations. You should also make sure no important information such as safety or regulation standards are accidentally deleted or placed in the wrong context. MT’s are not trained to recognize context. This is why marketing and e-learning materials are the hardest materials to machine translate. The best materials to translate are forms, instruction manuals, standard letters and emails, social media content, standard e-commerce content such as pricing tables (price, amount, total), and dynamic websites that are constantly updated. Context is everything and machine translations will generally perform a literal translation. That is why it is very important for the post editor to accurately adapt the content and put it in the correct context.

Machine Translation and Post Editing is not for everyone and maybe it’s not the right choice for you. However, there are many translation agencies offering this service and it is something you might want to consider if you have content written in simple English and does not require high degree of scrutiny. It is also an important consideration if you have large volumes of content you need translated quickly or if cost and time saving issues are at the top of your priority list.

Translate to Achieve a Global Business

By maintaining a website, your business is available to consumers across the world. This means that potential customers everywhere can access information about your business. However, presenting your website solely in your native language severely limits your global reach. It is not enough to speak to your international customers in only one language.

Many business leaders assume that translation into the target audience’s language is unnecessary, especially because English is widely accepted as the language of business. Nevertheless, because your international customers’ proficiency in English can vary, it is crucial to provide translated materials. According to Common Sense Advisory, a global market research company specializing in translation, here’s why:

  • Less than 6% of the world’s population speaks English well enough to conduct business.
  • 56% of global consumers report that having access to information in their language is more important than the price.
  • 60% of consumers from non-English speaking countries rarely or never buy from English-only websites.
  • Fortune 500 businesses that increased their translation budget were 1.5x more likely to increase their total revenue.
  • Companies that translate to communicate with and retain customers were 2.67x more likely to experience revenue increases.
  • Fortune 500 companies that translated content to keep up with or gain an edge over competitors were 2x more likely to report increased profits.
  • 85% of Internet users will not make important purchasing decisions unless the product is expressed in their native language.

Opportunity Cost

The risk that you take by not translating your materials is to limit your business from achieving future gains such as greater profits, increased customer retention, better customer service and reduced legal liability. In order to reach global markets and retain customers, it is integral to invest in the translation of your content.

Translating is Critical for a Global Business

There are a number of reasons why businesses should translate their content. Tailoring the translation and localization process to your business needs, however, is most important. By translating content, your business will be able to:

  1. Expand to new, global markets
    Translating your website, technical manuals and marketing materials allows your business to reach a broader audience and get ahead of the competition. In many countries, language barriers exclude global end-users from utilizing English-only software and products. Speaking in your target audience’s language enables your business to build credibility in non-US markets and gain new customer bases. Because consumers demand information in their own language and are willing to pay more for it, you must translate your content to take advantage of emerging markets.
  1. Increase sales and revenue
    Conducting business in new markets translates into opportunities for increased sales. Companies are quickly realizing that international revenues can overtake domestic revenues. In fact, according to a study by Common Sense Advisory, translating into a few major languages (Japanese, German, Spanish, French, Simplified Chinese) enables businesses to increase their online spending power to $17.5 trillion. Most important, retaining customers is integral to generating more sales and expanding your reach.
  1. Retain customers
    To develop credibility and brand-loyalty among current clients, businesses must offer high quality marketing and post-sales materials. It is critical to provide professionally translated operator’s manuals to the target market to ensure a safer work environment and reduce legal liability. By neglecting to do so, you fail to show your clients that you understand and respect their culture as well as open your business to expensive litigation if something were to go wrong. In fact, some European Union members require that foreign manufacturers translate post-sales materials, such as operator’s manuals and packaging, into the language of the importing country. Additionally, most countries require that your products comply with global certifications and accreditation (such as UL, GFSI, etc.). Confirm such requirements with the local chamber of commerce or trade group.

In order to reach new markets, increase sales and maintain positive relationships with your customers, it is essential that your business translate its content. The next step is to prepare your business and your materials for translation. Some questions to ask before translation include:

  • What percentage of your customer base is located in other countries?
  • Where do you have locations, branches, distributors and other partners?
  • In which countries and languages do your competitors operate?
  • Which languages are your top priorities?
  • What content are you already translating?

Once you answer these questions, your business is ready to take on translation and tackle global markets!

Website Translation: Where to Focus Your Time and Money

Company websites are a must have today and there is no indication they will go away anytime soon. They are your online presence and often a point of sale for customers. If you are expanding into new language markets, how do you handle translating your web content to target these new markets? Where should you focus your time and energy on your website to maximize your ROI?

While English is a major language in the world, it does not cover all markets nor is it the most used language. Even for your customers who speak English as a second or third language, it is not best to rely on your English website to sell to these customers. Customers prefer and are comfortable reading and navigating a website localized into their native language. Today, you can reach 80% of the online population by translating into only 12 languages. English covers only 22% of the web users. To really start expanding your reach, you are going to need to address the issue.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect formula to apply to every company website to determine which pages should be translated. The best method is a combination of working with your web and sales teams to determine where to focus your efforts. Your web team can give you the analytics for your website to break down where your users are accessing your web pages from. You will also see which pages or products are popular in specific locales. Additionally, your sales team can give you an indication of which markets the company is ready to start moving more product in. It is a collaborative effort which will take time to do it properly but once it is done right, it can pay off quite well for your company.

While deciding what to translate isn’t always the easiest thing, there are some guidelines for things you can generally exclude from your translation. News sections, especially if you update them often as this can be time-consuming to manage, should be considered whether they’re necessary. If you are using your news sections to update your clients about advances in your product, or new products, then by all means translate. However, if the news updates are more about the internals of your staff and company, then you might want to start picking and choosing the ones to translate. If you do have a technological breakthrough you want to highlight, you could consider translating a press release and linking to it on the appropriate page. Career and job sections can be avoided as well, unless you are hiring in those specific markets. And again, focus on the products you intend to sell in the new markets.

As mentioned earlier, there are 12 languages you can translate into to cover 80% of the online population. These languages, in order of popularity, are Chinese, English, Spanish, Japanese, Portuguese, Arabic, German, Russian, French, Indonesian, Korean, and Italian. If your company is not targeting the Chinese market, you do not need to focus on translating into Chinese. Try to avoid “because we can” reasons to translate as this is money spent without a guarantee of a return on your investment. Again, your goal in translating is to grow in the markets that are important to you.

There are a few more things to consider while translating your website. Does your website have a customer portal? If so, you will want to have this translated along with the rest of your website to provide a complete experience for your customers. Images should also be considered. Is there a lot of information in your images which is important to the customer? If so, you have to make sure you have a localized version of the images or make sure the content is available elsewhere on the page (e.g. you could add the translated content as a caption for the image). Phone numbers also can be a matter of concern. 1-800 numbers do not work for your customers abroad. Have an alternate number ready for these customers or consider providing means for your customers to get in touch with you. Don’t forget about meta descriptions and keywords either. These will help search engines better index your website in the languages your website is translated into. Translating these will help your search engine appearance for native language searches. And remember, your translation agency should know how to handle these things as well so if you are unsure on how to proceed, consult them.