Machine translation and international English

Machine translation (MT) is the automatic translation of text using only software without the help of a human translator. An alternative name for machine translation is automated translation.

Many people can give examples of humorous machine translations, or machine translations that have no meaning. Therefore, many people think that machine translation never gives good results. However, according to the Localization Industry Standards Association (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Localization_Industry_Standards_Association), "today, more words are translated per year using MT than are translated by human translators, and the demand continues to grow."

Usually, the problem of bad translation is because the source text is not clear in a way that a machine can analyse. International English is written in a way that a machine can analyse. Thus, machine translation gives good results with international English.

If you can read a language other than English, you can verify that machine translation gives good results. Use the Google Translate option that is on this website, or use other free machine translation software.

To evaluate the quality of machine translation, do not translate from English to a different language, and then translate back to English. A correct translation back to English does not verify that the first translation is correct. For example, Google translates the English sentence 'The event came out of the blue' to the Italian sentence 'L'evento è venuto fuori dalla blu.' Although the translation has no meaning in Italian, the sentence is translated back to English correctly. (This test was done on 2008-12-12.)

Machine translation software

The following list shows some popular free machine translation software:

To improve the quality of machine translation, use software that lets you specify how terms are translated. The following list shows some commercial suppliers:

International English gives better machine translation than standard English

There are six pairs of texts. The first text in a pair is standard English. The second text in a pair is equivalent to the standard English text, but it is optimized for machine translation. In January 2009, Google Translate was used to translate the texts into Bulgarian and into Spanish (http://translate.google.com).

Professional translators evaluated the translation for fluency and for accuracy.

Figure 1 summarises the results of the evaluation for fluency.

The fluency of machine translation of international English is better quality than the fluency of machine translation of standard English

Figure 1. Fluency of machine translation for standard English and for international English

The increase in fluency for machine translation of international English is small.

Figure 2 summarises the results of the evaluation for accuracy.

The accuracy of machine translation of international English is better quality than the accuracy of machine translation of standard English

Figure 2. Accuracy of machine translation for standard English and for international English

The increase in accuracy for machine translation of international English is large. However, machine translation of international English does not always give good results, as with sentence 5b for the Spanish translation.

Bulgarian

A professional translator evaluated the machine translations in February 2009.

Evaluation of machine translation from English into Bulgarian
Ref. English source Bulgarian machine translation Fluency Accuracy
1a The request came out of the blue. В искането се излезе от синьо. Perfect fluency Nonsense
1b The request came unexpectedly. Искането дойде неочаквано. Perfect fluency Correct meaning
2a If the bid falls through, we will lose much money. Ако офертата попада чрез, ние ще загубим много пари. Low-quality fluency Nonsense
2b If the bid is not successful, we will lose much money. Ако офертата не е успешен, ние ще загубим много пари. Acceptable fluency Correct meaning
3a If the material is hard, do not study it. Ако материалът е твърд, не проучване него. Low-quality fluency Nonsense
3b If the material is difficult, do not study it. Ако материалът е трудно, да не го проучване. Incomprehensible Nonsense
4a The machine on the left is broken. Машината в ляво е счупена. Perfect fluency Correct meaning
4b The machine that is on the left is broken. Машината, която е в ляво е счупена. Perfect fluency Correct meaning
5a Our education zone gives you an insight into how various people within the organisation work, from the people known as the uniformed officers who check your bags at ports and airports, to the ‘The VAT Man’. Нашето образование зона ви дава поглед към това как отделните хора в организацията работа, от хора, познати като униформени служители, които проверяват чантите на пристанищата и летищата, на "ДДС Man". Low-quality fluency Nonsense
5b Our education zone tells you about the work of people in the organisation, such as the uniformed officers who check your bags at ports and airports, and the ‘The VAT Man’. Нашето образование зона ви казва за работата на хората в организацията, като униформени служители, които проверяват чантите на пристанищата и летищата, и "на ДДС Man". Acceptable fluency Correct meaning
6a They brought the matter of expenses up. Те донесоха на разходите се. Acceptable fluency Nonsense
6b They brought up the matter of expenses. Те повдигат въпроса на разноски. Perfect fluency Correct meaning

Spanish

A professional interpreter evaluated the machine translations in February 2009. (An interpreter is a person who translates speech.)

Evaluation of machine translation from English into Spanish
Ref.English sourceSpanish machine translationFluencyAccuracy
1a The request came out of the blue. La petición llegó de la nada. Perfect fluency Correct meaning
1b The request came unexpectedly. La petición llegó inesperadamente. Perfect fluency Correct meaning
2a If the bid falls through, we will lose much money. Si se inscribe a través de la oferta, vamos a perder mucho dinero.Perfect fluency Incorrect meaning
2b If the bid is not successful, we will lose much money. Si la oferta no tiene éxito, vamos a perder mucho dinero. Perfect fluency Correct meaning
3a If the material is hard, do not study it. Si el material es duro, no estudiarla. Acceptable fluency Correct meaning
3b If the material is difficult, do not study it. Si el material es difícil, no estudiarla. Acceptable fluency Correct meaning
4a The machine on the left is broken. La máquina de la izquierda está roto. Low-quality fluency Ambiguous meaning
4b The machine that is on the left is broken. La máquina que está a la izquierda está roto. Perfect fluency Correct meaning
5a Our education zone gives you an insight into how various people within the organisation work, from the people known as the uniformed officers who check your bags at ports and airports, to the ‘The VAT Man’. Nuestra zona de la educación le da una idea de cómo varias personas dentro de la organización de trabajo, de la gente conoce como la agentes uniformados que comprobar su equipaje en los puertos y aeropuertos, a la «El Hombre del IVA». Low-quality fluency Nonsense
5b Our education zone tells you about the work of people in the organisation, such as the uniformed officers who check your bags at ports and airports, and the ‘The VAT Man’. Nuestra zona de educación dice usted acerca de la labor de las personas en la organización, como los oficiales uniformados que comprobar su equipaje en los puertos y aeropuertos, y el "El Hombre del IVA». Low-quality fluency Nonsense
6a They brought the matter of expenses up. Se planteó la cuestión de los gastos arriba. Perfect fluency Incorrect meaning
6b They brought up the matter of expenses. Se planteó la cuestión de los gastos. Perfect fluency Correct meaning

Notes

The sample size is too small for the evaluation to have statistical validity. To increase the quality of the evaluation, we must do the following things:

Machine translation or human translation?

To select the most suitable translation option for your website, use the following flow chart.

There are 5 decisions in the flow chart, which are explained in the text that comes after the flow chart.

The flow chart has five decisions:

  1. Legally, must you supply text in your customers' languages? If yes, use human translation. If no, continue to the next step.
  2. If your website is translated, will you get new business? If yes, continue to the next step. If no, do nothing.
  3. Is the fluency of the translation important? If yes, continue to the next step. If no, go to step 5.
  4. For human translation, is the return on investment good? If yes, use human translation. If no, continue to the next step.
  5. Are there many technical terms to translate? If yes, use commercial machine translation software. If no, use free machine translation software.