Machine Translation Playoffs

Machine Translation Playoffs  

(MT = Machine Translation, not Montana.)

I just finished testing six MT products against each other. Skip to the bottom to see my conclusions, or just read along and learn about a very interesting (and soon to be hot) subject.

I’ve followed the progress of machine translation for 15 years; basically I’m fascinated by it. During that time I’ve owned, actively used, and kept upgraded on several desktop MT programs, as well as experimenting with online versions. Many people like to laugh at MT, and some of the translations are pretty funny, or worse, mangled. Professional translators in particular enjoy deriding MT, for obvious reasons. But now, quietly, many of them are incorporating MT into their workflow.

Personally, even in the primitive versions years ago, I have found MT to be extremely useful in my work, like a super-dictionary. Paste in a block of text in the source language, it quickly spits out, at the very least, a big pile of useful words in the target language. For a person like myself with very weak Spanish, it gives a jump-start to anything I’m trying to write.

Well, Folks, fast-forward to 2009. If you’re reading it here first, I’m pleased: MT is at a tipping point where the output is suddenly not just a pile of useful words, but something a person can basically read and understand. And for reasons I’m about to explain, it’s going to get much better, very quickly. (more…)