How Do You Know Which Translation Service to Choose?

Mar 29, 2024

Traditionally, translation has been handled by human linguists but in recent years LLMs (Large Language Models) being introduced has changed the perception of translation itself. It seems a significant number of industries expect translation to be automatic without any consequences. The secret desire is for translation to be instant and flawless with AI. This wishful thinking is projected, yet we still fall short from ideal results. The human linguist is here to stay for the time being. Then the question is how reliable is machine translation?

How Much Are You Willing to Compromise with Machine Translation?

Machine translation (MT) is an innovative software which automatically translates text from the original language to target language(s). MT is fast, cheap, and convenient, giving anybody from anywhere the freedom to translate any language without limitations. MT is best suited for simple, informal, or personal text which does not have professional requirements. Although high accuracy and quality are ideal to capture the essence of the original text. In my opinion, MT should not be used for any sort of business, legal, or financial transactions. When a customer pays for something, a certain level of quality is expected. This may not seem evident upfront but this expectation exists. You are not only paying for the product but for the feeling and experience. Complete comprehension of the product dictates the overall feeling making it important to communicate your message clearly to the customer to translate not only meaning but an experience. This could be from product descriptions, brand marketing, safety labels, to storytelling. MT often fails to capture the context, tone, and cultural nuances of the original text, producing errors, inaccuracies, and awkward expressions. This lack of accuracy and quality creates problems with customers, sales, and in the worst-case litigation resulting in payment for damages. Translation is not just a matter of replacing text but the packaging of cultural equivalents in a conscious caring cohesive manner.

What Is Human Translation?

Human translation is performed by professional native linguists to translate text from the original language to target language(s). Human beings are at a disadvantage because they perform translation manually. Human translation is slower, more expensive, and labor-intensive compared to MT. But human translation has its advantages. Human translators can deliver high-quality, accurate, and natural translations that reflect the meaning, style, and intention of the original text. Through experience, culturally savvy human translators can handle complex, technical, and creative documents that require specialized knowledge. Subjects include legal, medical, literary, and technical texts. Many LLMs use massive amounts of data to compensate for its lack of cultural astuteness. Because many LLMs include various data sets this causes internal confliction surfacing bizarre to blatantly wrong results. The main issue with MT is it does not know when it is wrong. A human translator can realize its mistake and make a correction on the spot. However, an MT with the latest AI will never know it makes a mistake. It cannot identify its own errors. It is not conscious like a human being. This is something we should be reminded of when we rely too heavily on MT, LLMs, and AI.

Can We Use Human and Machine Translation Together?

The combination of human and machine translation is called hybrid translation. Hybrid translation is a method to merge the best of both worlds incorporating the accuracy and quality of human translation while optimizing the speed and cost cutting of machine translation. Hybrid translation can take different forms, such as post-editing, where a human translator revises and corrects the output of MT. The second approach is pre-editing, where a human translator simplifies and prepares the original text for MT to create better outcomes. The third approach is using TM (translation memory) from previous translation which were confirmed by human translators and adding MT for the human translator to use freely at their own discretion. Hybrid translation is an attempt to utilize the newest technologies to find the optimal balance between the benefits and drawbacks of MT and human translation. Hybrid translation solely depends on the level of human involvement, skill level, and the accuracy/quality of the MT used. Many LSPs offer different types of hybrid translation services according to the subject matter, time frame, and budget.

What Factors Should You Consider When Choosing a Translation Service?

When choosing a translation service, you should consider many factors before you decide. What is your goal you want to achieve? Who is your audience? What level of quality do you expect? What is your budget? When do you need it by? What languages do you need? These arrays of choices need to be decided on. Knowing what to expect with what you choose will lead to the least disappointment.

The translation service you choose is case dependent. For example, if you need to translate a legal contract with formal and professional context, you should opt for a human translation service that can ensure accuracy, reliability, and compliance. On the other hand, if you need to translate a blog post which is casual and personal, you may use a machine translation service that can provide speed, convenience, and affordability. Remember as mentioned before if there is going to be a monetary transaction between you and a customer there will be a certain level of quality expected. Imagine you are at the receiving end. If you experience an inadequate translation, at times you might be amused. But as the price of purchase increases it is not as funny. You may even feel betrayed. You feel your brand has done a disservice to you. They did not bother considering your brand experience. It’s often difficult to observe secondary consequences. Cost cutting for short term gains inevitably affects long term growth. Translation is a wonderful service which can enhance customer experience boosting sales. The choice between human translation, MT, or hybrid translation needs to be carefully considered. Once you made a mindful assessment, next is to select a translation service. If possible, evaluate the services reputation, credentials, and performance. Check online for reviews, ratings, testimonials, portfolios, and case studies. Asking for a sample translation is another option to determine the quality, accuracy, and style you desire. Compare the different features, benefits, costs, and compromises. In the end choose the translation service which meets your budget, expectations, and requirements. Remember you can always change your mind. Find the best balance between quality and cost you are satisfied with.

A Translation Service Is Relationship Building

Choosing a translation service to get a document translated is relationship building. You need to find someone you can trust to get it done right. Before you decide between an independent translator or LSP, you should do research. If possible, ask someone you know who can give you a referral. If not search networks and organizations for legitimate sources. Professionals who are listed should have a certain level of competence. Evaluate your prospects and get in contact. Whether its human, machine, or hybrid know your budget and requirements. Find who fits best. Look for someone who is patient and answers any questions you may have. If there is an error, they are admittedly swift to correct any problems. Ultimately, honesty and integrity demonstrate a quality translation service.

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