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For businesses who work abroad, instant translation seems like a dream come true. When you face day-to-day language barriers, everything from small talk to high-value proposals becomes extra tricky. But does instant translation work? We take a look at the world of instant translations, with explanations and top tips.

What is instant translation?

Instant translation is machine translation, that’s to say, it’s generated by computers without editing from a human. Machine translation comes in many forms. You might use a website that you type into or an app that uses your camera to generate a live translation overlayed on the original image.

There has also been a trend for pocket machines that translate instantly. Sometimes, these are one-size-fits-all devices for avid travelers with over 100 languages to choose from. Others offer a more in-depth program for one language pair (two languages).

If you work with a translation company, they might offer machine translation in some form. Often this is combined with post-editing, which is where an experienced translator reviews the instant translation and corrects any obvious errors.

How does instant translation work for businesses?

There are several ways to program automatic translations. Long gone are the days when translation apps looked at words in isolation. Today, many modern, more accurate software uses neural machine translation, which is modeled on neural networks in the brain.

Through deep learning, these systems can learn as they are used. They focus on segments of text (rather than isolated words) for more accurate results.

Companies who often use machine translation can feed pre-approved translations into the software so that certain words and phrases are always translated in a specific way. This is particularly helpful for consistency in tone of voice, branding, and for technical, industry specific terms.

However, this doesn’t mean that instant translation always gets things right.

Instant translation accuracy

Any business that needs translations should have a keen eye on accuracy. Even with the best programs on the market, 100% accuracy can’t be guaranteed for machine translations.

Some language pairs have less data for the software to work with. After all, many translation apps are based on translations to and from English, but only 20% of the world speaks the language in some way.

Even when software boasts high levels of accuracy, there could be errors. If you don’t speak the target language, how will you know where those errors are?

What’s more, creative texts can’t be translated automatically; elements like cultural references, jokes, and emotional content won’t make sense word-for-word.

MTPE – A business solution

For high-volume translations where speed is more important than complete accuracy or creativity, machine translation can work well…with a bit of extra help. Machine translation post-editing (MTPE) combines the power of computers with the skills of human translators as a cost-efficient solution.

MTPE comes in different levels, from light (basic editing) to full (the translation feels more ‘human’).

At Future Group, we work with our clients to build the right solution for them. Whether you need a one-off translation or ongoing support, we can help.

We are ISO 17100 certified. This means we provide a translation service that meets both the client’s needs and other specifications, including industry codes, best practice guides, and legislation. To find out more, please get in touch.