;   Medical Translation Insight: We have met the enemy, and he is machine translation - ForeignExchange Translations

Last week, noting a rash of recent announcements regarding machine translation (aka "MT") developments and crowdsourced translation efforts, we conducted a short straw poll. The question to translation service providers was simple:

What do you think will be more disruptive to your business - machine translation or crowdsourcing?

One week and 322 votes later, the answer is in:

Machine translation is perceived to be a slightly larger threat than crowdsourcing

It is interesting to see that translation service providers view advances in MT as a (slightly) larger threat than efforts to use crowds of volunteer translators.

Even more interesting are the comments and examples that we received via comments and email messages. Here is a sampling of email messages:

Adam recalled a machine translation gone bad and though that:

I think it is excusable for a client not to know what it is buying, but inexcusable for language professionals to be ignorant of what they are selling, and that applies to MT: the client bank had obviously been attracted to the low cost of the MT solution offered in this instance, but was not in a position to assess the quality of its output.
Several people commented that not all MT is equal. For instance, Kevin had this to say:
Most of the machine translation of Chinese to English I have ever seen is utter rubbish
In general, MT drew more and stronger opinions. Werner, for example, wrote that:
I'm not worried [about MT], and any client who believes that rubbish and uses such programs instead of human translators is not a loss to me
That may have something to do with the fact that "crowdsourcing" does not appear to be widely understood. Many, many people asked:
What does "crowdsourcing" mean?
And finally, Michael asked, quite succinctly:
Were the Luddites right?
Thank you to everybody who participated in the poll!

For daily updates, subscribe to Medical Translation Insight via email or RSS. If you need more frequent updates, follow us on Twitter at @fxtrans.


  1. Amelia said...
    We have also written about machine translation in our blog, especially Systran, and how to integrate it in CAT tools.


    Best regards,

    AJ said...
    RAW MT is rubbish... If it is placed in the hands of a competent translator it can be a powerful tool to reduce lead times, costs and improve consistency. MT will HELP LSPs get more business, not decrease it....
    amaxson said...
    @ Amelia: Thank you for sharing your blog with us!

    Funny enough, my limited Spanish was not good enough to read it. My gut reaction was: 'I can pop this website into a machine translation and get the gist of it!'

    While MT might not have a home in the near future for professional use, it does still have its uses!
    Janice Campbell said...
    MT and crowdsourcing should not be viewed as threats. There is too much information and content and not enough translators or funds to do it all. Translators should be freed up from drudgery to do work that machines don't do well. Translation companies need to understand that the world has changed and so their businesses must as well!

Post a Comment


Services | Resources | Company | Contact Us | Blog | Home

(c) Copyright 2010, ForeignExchange Translations, Inc.