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What is Machine Translation?

machine translation

The development of machine translation technology has always been closely related to the development of computer technology, information theory, linguistics, and other disciplines. From early dictionary matching to dictionary-combined expert linguistic knowledge, to corpus-based statistical machine translation, with the improvement of computer computing power and the explosive growth of multi-language information, machine translation technology gradually stepped out of the ivory tower and has started providing real-time and convenient translation services for the ordinary users.

What is Machine Translation?

Machine translation, also known as automatic translation, is the process of converting a natural language (source language) into another natural language (target language) using a computer. It is a branch of computational linguistics and one of the ultimate goals of artificial intelligence, with important scientific research value.

At the same time, machine translation has important practical value. With the globalization of the economy and the rapid development of the Internet, machine translation technology plays an increasingly important role in promoting political, economic and cultural exchanges.

With the universal application of the Internet, the acceleration of the process of world economic integration and the increasing frequency of international social exchanges, the traditional methods of manual operation are far from meeting the rapidly growing demand for translation. People’s demand for machine translation has grown unprecedentedly. Translation has ushered in a new development opportunity. With the emergence and popularity of the Internet, the amount of data has surged and statistical methods have been fully applied. Internet companies have set up machine translation research groups to develop machine translation systems based on the Internet such as “Baidu translation”, “Google translation” and so on. In recent years, with the progress of deep learning, the further development of machine translation technology has promoted the rapid improvement of translation quality, and the translation of spoken and written language is more authentic and smooth.

Errors are inevitable in Machine Translations

Many people have the wrong conception of machine translation. They think that machine translation is too biased to help people solve problems. In fact, the error is inevitable. The reason is that machine translation uses linguistic principles, the machine automatically recognizes the grammar, calls the stored lexicon, and automatically performs the corresponding translation. However, due to changes in grammar, lexical, syntax, or irregularities, it is inevitable that errors will occur.  After all, because of the changes in its lexical, grammatical, and syntactical contexts, and the change of its context, the meanings of content in different languages will differ.

Limitations of Machine Translation

In fact, no matter which method, the biggest factor affecting the development of machine translation is the quality of the translation. Judging from the achievements, the quality of machine translation is still far from the ultimate goal.

To improve the quality of translation of machine translation, the first thing to solve is the problem of language itself rather than the problem of programming; The machine translation system is definitely unable to improve the quality of the translation of the machine translation. At the same time, human beings have not yet understood how the brain performs fuzzy recognition and logical judgment of language, it is impossible for machine translation to achieve the degree of “faith, expressiveness, and elegance”. This view is probably the limitation of machine translation that restricts the quality of the translation. It is worth mentioning that the American inventor and futurist Ray Cozwell predicted in an interview with the Huffington Post that the quality of machine translation will reach the level of human translation by 2029. There is still much controversy in the academic world about this assertion.

Read Also: How to work as a translator?

In any case, this is currently the most promising period for machine translation. This concern is based on an objective understanding and rational thinking. We also have reason to believe that with the joint efforts of computer experts, linguists, psychologists, logicians and mathematicians, the limitations of machine translation will be solved.


Picture of Books

Tanslation is an interesting and lucrative career option these days and you might want to become a translator. However, translation is not an easy task. There are many things you should consider before starting a translation career and reading is one of them. Here are the books that can help you succeed as a translator.

Books That Translators Should Read

1. Jeremy Munday’s “Introducing Translation Studies”

2. Lawrence Venuti’s “The Translation Studies Reader.”

2. Routledge’s collection of books on Translation Studies

3. Mona Baker: In Other Words

4. Jiří Levý’s The Art of Translation

5. Anthony Pym’s Exploring Translation Theories

Further Reading For Translators

While the book listed above is for translators beginning their career, the below-listed books can be used for further reading.

Baker, M., In other words – A coursebook on translation

Bassnett, S., & Trivedi, H. (Eds.), Post-colonial translation: theory and practice.

Bassnett, S., Reflections on Translation

Cronin, M., Translation in the digital age.

Gopinathan, G., Translation, Transcreation, and Culture – Theories of Translation in Indian Languages.

The little book of transcreation: Insight into the word of creative translation.

Jiménez-Crespo, Translation and web localization

Kelly-Holmes, Advertising as multilingual communication

Landers, Literary Translation-A Practical Guide. Clevedon

Leppihalme, R., Culture Bumps – An Empirical Approach to the Translation of Allusions. Clevedon

Mason, I., Discourse in Translation – A Social Perspective.

Newmark, P., More paragraphs on translation

O’Hagan, M. & Magiron, Game Localization: Translating for the global digital entertainment industry

Pym, A., Exploring Translation Theories. (2nd ed.)

Samuelsson-Brown, A Practical Guide for Translators. (5th ed.)

Torresi, I., Translating promotional and advertising texts.

Wilson, R. & Maher, Words, Images, and Performance in Translation.

Well, we can’t just guarantee that you will become a translator just by reading these books. Some countries require that you should get a translation degree before you can work as a translator and there are other requirements as well. There is no doubt that these books will enhance your knowledge and will make your way easier but you should not completely rely on them. The most essential thing about becoming a translator is that you should have a passion for it and you should be good at reading and writing.

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