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Can You Trust a Computer to Translate Your Business Documents?

Apr 1, 2008
Machine language translators are often cheaper and less time consuming than going through a human language translation service. But the real question is that whether or not they are as accurate or at least accurate enough to translate your important business documents.

The world is getting smaller and smaller everyday. With companies doing business with others from all languages and countries, there has never been a greater need for excellent translation services. In fact, the U.S. Pentagon pummeled roughly $75 million into translation research in 2007 to find better solutions to understanding others around the globe. There are plenty of foreign language translation groups that employ actual people fluent in the required languages. A relatively new trend however, is the growth of companies offering language translation websites and software. These are often cheaper and less time consuming than going through a human language translation service. But the real question is whether or not they are as accurate or at least accurate enough to translate your important business documents.

Many computer language translation programs were developed based on using language rules. The computer is fed the syntax rules of one language and uses those rules to translate text into another language. This technique is most effective with documents that have very simple, limited sentence structure and where the words are straight forward, without possible double meanings. For more complex documents, these rules-based systems can sometimes fail to capture the true connotation of the phrases.

In recent years, a new type of computer program has been developed to serve the foreign language translation needs of businesses and other groups. This is a programming technique based on statistical methods of translation. Because rules are often not enough to accurately translate text, new methods use enormous volumes of text to teach a computer how language functions. These texts are called corpuses and are chosen from books or documents that are believed to be a good representation of a language's patterns and laws. They must contain tens of millions of words and have parallel texts in other languages. The computer can then analyze and compare both documents to understand how languages are really translated into another. Unfortunately, there are not many parallel corpuses in the world, making this method more difficult to find and use.

Nevertheless, there are lots of companies out there offering computer-based translations, promising accuracy and efficiency. These language translation service products have been tested and many offer surprisingly good foreign language translation of complex texts. Several are even available online for free.

Kevin Hendzel, spokesman for the American Translators Association, adamantly disagrees that machine language translation is the right solution for international business needs.

"Machine translations are for writing letters to your aunt and not for business purposes," Hendzel said in a recent interview.

He argues that although computers are becoming more advanced, they can never replace the effectiveness and accuracy of a live interpreter. "Language is not just about words," Hendzel said. "It's about facial expressions, accents, culture and context."

Whether or not you can trust your business documents to a computer translation service or you need to hire a live translator is a matter only you can decide. The best way to find out is to test both methods and see which one provides better results at the best price.
About the Author
Certified Translation Services, an expert document translation service can help translate documents for business with high quality at cost-effective rates. Visit at http://www.certifiedtranslationservices.com/ to explore business opportunities in the global market.
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