Types of Machine Translation and its Advantages and Disadvantages

As per Google, there are seven thousand languages in the world. We cannot ever imagine learning all seven thousand languages, can we?

And we don’t even need to, because thanks to technology, no language is now alien to us. All we need to do is type or search for a word and you will get the translation in less than a second. Thanks to the technology of translation, just like podcasts voice overs, language is no longer a barrier to us.

Translation is a powerful creation that has made the world smaller and information, entertainment, and connectivity more accessible. But, what is translation?

Simply, it’s a tool that allows you to convert one language into another. But that’s just explaining it in layperson terms. Technically, translation is much more complex than that. Because everyone and every field have different interpretations, there is no best description of translation.

According to Wikipedia, “translation is the communication of the meaning of a source-language text by means of an equivalent target-language text.The English language draws a terminological distinction (which does not exist in every language) between translating (a written text) and interpreting (oral or signed communication between users of different languages); under this distinction, translation can begin only after the appearance of writing within a language community.”

Translation is not a recent phenomenon.

Yes, maybe the technology for translation is fairly recent and yet not, but the art of translation is definitely not a new one. For instance, the first important translation in the West was that of the Septuagint, a collection of Jewish Scriptures translated into early Koine Greek in Alexandria between the 3rd and 1st centuries BCE.

Humans were the primary means of translation before machines came into play and have played an integral part in the translation of some of the greatest works history has given us. However, we cannot undermine the involvement and importance of machines in the process of translation either.

Machine translation is a vast concept and there is not one but different machine translation available and, to accommodate those, the market is now filled with just as many types of matching translation software.

In today’s article, we will understand the concept of machine translation and how it has changed the face of translation altogether.

So, let’s hop right in, shall we?

What is machine translation?

Simply put, machine translation is the translation of a source text into a distinct language using machines and with no manual involvement. The best example of this as of now could be Google Translate.

According to Wikipedia, “Machine translation, sometimes referred to by the abbreviation MT (not to be confused with computer-aided translation, machine-aided human translation or interactive translation), is a sub-field of computational linguistics that investigates the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another.”

Machine translation is a major and most commonly used means of translation nowadays, depending entirely on machines to generate quick, cheap and sophisticated translation.

Advantages and disadvantages of machine translation:

There are always two sides to one coin. Hence, as much as machines have brought about drastic changes in our lifestyle, we all know that there are both advantages as well as disadvantages to them.

Similarly, machine translation has its own disadvantages and advantages. These are:

Advantages:

a) Fast: machines are taking over humans quickly as technology is advancing rapidly. One of the main reasons for that is because it’s fast. Hence, one of the undeniable advantages of machine translation is that it’s much faster than traditional translation.

b) Cheap: machine translation is hands down comparatively cheaper. It costs nothing for you to translate something using Google Translate. But, an expert translator will charge page by page and word by word to translate your text, making it much more expensive.

c) Confidential: if you need to translate some important confidential document, safety is obviously compromised when we use manual translation. However, it is less risky with machine translation because of protected information.

Disadvantage

a) Accuracy: accuracy in machine translation is highly compromised, which is a big concern, especially when it comes to technical content, important proposals, etc. Many times we see that the translation is not accurately identical to the input given.

b) Poor quality: due to lack of accuracy, it is safe to say that the quality of the text is highly affected in the case of machine translation.

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c) Lack of precision: machine translation takes the straightforward road to translation which is not always feasible. Certain documents, especially if related to literature, need evaluation and understanding before translated. MT somehow fails to deliver in that context.

Regardless of the advantages and disadvantages, machine translation is quickly taking over manual translation these days. And hence, just like any other field, there have been several additions and advancements in its technology giving us four different types of machine translation.

Type of machine translation

Machine translation is a sub-field of computational linguistics and within this sub-field

it can further categorized it into many other different types of machine translation. These are as follows:

Rules-based machine translation:

The first type of machine translation is a rule-based machine translation. Simply put, it uses linguistic rules and bilingual dictionaries to translate text. Rule-based machine translation is not very feasible as it needs constant updating. It cannot proceed with translation if things that require translation are not found in its dictionary.

Statistical machine translation:

This type of machine translation is based on high-level analysis. Statistical machine translation requires software that can analyze continuously and translate according to the type of text. STM is one of the most popular types of machine translation.

Neural machine translation:

NMT depends on neural network models, ie. models based on the human brain to develop statistical models.

This type of translation also heavily relies on analysis just like statistical machine translation, but the difference is that it’s more elaborate as it works on developing human-like relations to create an effective translation.

Hybrid machine translation:

This type of machine translation incorporates the use of different types of machine translation approaches into one machine translation system. The aim is to achieve that failure of one system doesn’t affect the translation process.

Machine translation is not a recent phenomenon. In fact, translation deemed as one of the first computer applications of computer power, starting somewhere around 1950. Over the years, it has advanced and become more sophisticated, bringing about a revolution and ending the barrier of languages as well as human dependency.

 

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