How to make the most of machine translation in your business

These are times of globalisation of online commerce and services. This has stepped up the need for translation, as lots of consumers prefer to shop in their own language. This is one of the conclusions of a study entitled “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy”, published by the American consultancy firm CSA Research

The 2020 edition of this market research provides some interesting data:  40% of consumers will not shop at stores or platforms in a foreign language, 65% prefer contents in their own language and 30% never shop at online English-language stores. This means that, if you want to reach a global market, it is not enough to have websites or online stores in English. And as cultural and language barriers can have a negative effect on business, translation services are more and more a prerequisite for companies and service providers who want to operate on the international stage.

Nonetheless, the amount of information to be translated and adapted can be overwhelming and this is where machine translation comes in. This software-based technology has progressed by leaps and bounds over the last 10 years. It uses databases (also known as translation memories), algorithms and artificial intelligence for rapid automatic translation of texts.     

Its uses in a business context are obvious. Machine translation is particularly useful for simple texts, product descriptions, single sentences and repetitive contents or texts with a fixed structure that need constant updates. It can be used for rapid creation of localised versions of websites and online stores. Whatever the case may be, it is important to note that machine translation still requires a human touch. Machine translations very often contain errors of semantics and sentences that are poorly structured or taken out of context. There may be vocabulary problems with idiomatic expressions or technical terms. As a rule, machine translated texts are close to the final "product" and some simple phrases do not need to be changed. Nonetheless, in most cases they need to be revised (and in some cases rewritten) by translators. 

In spite of these limitations, machine translation is an essential advantage for anyone wishing to reach a global market. Depending on the type of information and texts to be translated, fast, almost immediate translation of large amounts of content, even considering errors and inaccuracies, is a short cut to the final version. It speeds up the translators’ work, saves on costs and facilitates the localisation process. Many professional translators use these tools regularly. They have the advantage of improving with time, because, as the project grows and takes in more contents and updates, the software “learns" from its mistakes. It also stores vocabulary in its translation memory, thereby improving its efficiency and speeding up the translator’s work.

The outcome of this approach is more efficient localisation so that communication and marketing strategies can be adapted faster, thereby offering an advantage in setting up a business in a foreign market.

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