With technological progress and artificial intelligence, companies think they have found the solution to all their translation needs… But should we put 100% of our trust into these machine translation tools available at the click of a button on the Internet for all our document translation needs? Let’s see the advantages and disadvantages behind these software programs that can translate dozens of languages in an instant…
What are the best online machine translation tools?
When it comes to online machine translation systems, you have a lot to choose from Among all the offers available on the Internet, here are the most effective.
1# Google Translate
Of all the free machine translation systems, Google Translate is number one from a global perspective.
First on the market with a service that has been online for more than ten years, this Internet giant offers instantaneous translation of more than 90 languages! French, English, German, Spanish, but this automatic translation engine does not only translate the most common languages. It can translate a text from a source language (Nepali, Pashto, Telugu) into a target language (Chewa, Tajik) even if both are rare languages!
To achieve such a performance, Google uses a technology based on artificial neural networks: neural machine translation or Google Neural Machine Translation (NMT). But, for all the complexity behind the scenes, this software doesn’t exactly require a degree in information technologies to use! It is very user friendly and intuitive to learn. Especially since it automatically identifies the source language!
This machine translation service offers other interesting options. It is possible to translate all kinds of documents or formats (pdf, word, speech to text, etc.).
Even if some formulations are still translated word by word, Google Translation remains one of the most efficient machine translation engines.
Deep Learning (or DeepL) is the latest (2017) addition to the free online machine translation tools, but it still manages to punch above its weight class!
Although the possibilities for using DeepL are currently limited, with few additional applications or options, this machine translation tool is still very effective. And this is just the beginning!
Using artificial intelligence, the system uses a large database (including its Linguee multilingual translation search engine) to provide reliable translations in up to ten languages.
3# Systran Premium Translator
Unlike the previous two machine translation tools, Systran Premium Translator is not available for free on the internet.
This comprehensive tool offers specific services:
- Only for translation professionals in various fields.
- Only available in a paid version. The licence fee can be as high as $1000.
Thanks to an innovative translation engine, this software allows you to:
- Work while connected or offline.
- Provide instant and reliable translation of documents, web pages, emails.
- Combine different interesting options (management, review and exploration of multi-documents, structured file translations, etc.).
Even if it is a reference in terms of translation engines, it is not accessible to all…
4# Microsoft Translator
Microsoft’s translation tool has earned its place among the others. And for good reason! It allows you to translate sentences, words and web pages into over 40 languages. Nothing out of the ordinary.
However, to stand out from its competitors, it has developed a powerful application that is revolutionising the sector: a direct conversation function. From the site, you can converse with foreign contacts: thanks to a voice recognition system, every sentence spoken or written is translated into the chosen language so that you can understand each other without knowing the others’ languages!
Another notable innovation is that you can download packs that allow you to translate into any language offline.
The interface of this translation software is very user-friendly and the simple translations are reliable.
Reverso is a collaborative translation tool based on the participation of a community of users who spontaneously improve the content.
The design of the site is not particularly attractive, but the functionality and quality of the translations are much better! The translations from Reverso are generally relevant and help to improve your understanding of a text.
Its language panel includes about ten languages (Japanese, English, French, Spanish, etc.). It’s easy to switch from one to the other.
This online translator offers other useful linguistic tools (dictionary, spelling and conjugation checker, etc.).
6# Babylon Translation
This free online translation tool has the particularity of offering:
- 75 applicable languages.
- A large database with millions of translated words.
- Dictionaries and glossaries. These tools allow you to translate, search for synonyms or antonyms in the language of your choice.
- A thesaurus (index of terms in a sector). It helps you translate specific terms in specialised and technical fields by finding the right word in the right context.
Which machine translation tool should be used?
It is very difficult to distinguish between the different machine translation systems as their results are so similar in terms of quality! Of course, Google remains the reference with the largest range of languages available.
This software is a back-up solution for low-tech translation. Above all, they allow you to grasp the overall meaning of a text that does not present any particular difficulties.
When is machine translation useful?
Now that you know the different machine translation systems, you need to know how to use them properly!
They cannot be used systematically, as this could lead to translation errors that could be detrimental to the development of your business.
Here are the different cases in which you can safely use a machine translation tool:
- Understand the overall content of a document, an e-mail or even a website. With machine translation software, you will save time in getting an idea of the content. But under no circumstances may the automatically translated text be used for professional purposes.
- Send a non-strategic message to a contact. You can exchange e-mails with a foreign business contact using machine translation when the content of the e-mail is conversational and not strategic or promotional. Even if there are minor translation mistakes, this will not affect your relationship or the outcome of a project.
Be careful about the structure of the translation language: the more complex the sentences, the more difficult it will be for the software to translate well. For example, having German translated by a machine can produce results that are incomprehensible in French. This source language does not have the same structure (subject, verb, complement) as the target language.
Keep your sentences short for best results.
Do not hesitate to test the translation on several software programs in order to obtain different translations. This will give you a better idea of what the “right translation” is.
In short, you can rely on machine translation for non-strategic, non-technical texts that will not be used as is. The tools at your disposal are useful aids to enable you to understand the full content at any time of the day.
Did you know… Thanks to artificial intelligence, considerable progress has been made in the field of machine translation: Facebook France has recruited a former CNRS student, while Microsoft (Skype), Amazon and Baidu are following the same path. However, each of these giants agrees that, for the time being, human intervention remains essential to obtain quality translations, particularly in specialised fields such as science, technology and literature.
The limits of machine translation
When it comes to machine translation, it is best to be careful. You should definitely not entrust the translation of certain documents to machine translation tools, if you do not want to:
- Damage the reputation of your company.
- Lose your credibility.
- Lose a potential market.
Call upon a specialised translation agency for all the following documents:
- Legal. The law is not to be trifled with! And legal translation issues are crucial.
- Financial. If rough translation is tolerated in a basic email, it has no place in financial documents! The future of your company is at stake…
- Promotional or image-building. A machine translation cannot effectively adapt a slogan or product name to the country of destination. Beware of (fatal) translation errors.
- Sales-oriented advertisements. To sell well, it is essential to be well understood. Your arguments hit the mark in French. With professional translators, you can maintain the same efficiency in your target countries.
And more generally, any document of strategic importance must be handled with the utmost care or it will do the company a disservice (or worse). Specialised translation agencies support and advise companies on their translation needs in order to serve their interests worldwide.
A machine translation tool does not take context into account. And that’s where the problem lies! A company’s data needs to be contextualised in order to make sense of it, whatever the field (strategy, marketing, etc.).
By entrusting the translation of your content to an agency with translators who are experts in their field, you can be sure of obtaining quality translations. These professionals have the human qualities to take into account all the subtleties and ambiguities of the language. Moreover, if they are native speakers of the target language, they are also proficient in the source language. They guarantee translations that are faithful to the original meaning, respectful of typography (which a machine cannot do!) and reliable.
Machine translation tools are not yet ready to replace human translators. But they are useful to make their task easier and to help them understand the meaning of a simple text. If there is one area that cannot allow even minor mistakes with the stakes so high it is legal translations. It is imperative to obtain reliable and accurate translations, which only professional legal translators can guarantee. So, you know what you have to do if you need legal documents translated!