When to Use MT and When to Avoid It

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When to Use MT and When to Avoid It

This is a repost of an article, "An Intro to Machine Translation: Understand When to Use MT and When to Avoid It," that previously appeared in GALA.

Machine translation (MT) is a perfectly acceptable translation alternative, but trouble often follows when there is a lack of understanding or unrealistic expectations. It’s time to explain MT—what it is, what it can and cannot do, and most important, when to use it. Managing expectations of MT is critical to customer satisfaction and to the quality assurance we want to offer our clientele.

What is Machine Translation (MT)?

Machine translation uses software to translate text or speech from one language to another. MT uses a machine translation engine to perform simple substitution of words in one language for words in another, but that alone doesn’t usually produce the highest quality translation of a text. For more accurate translation, recognition of whole phrases and their closest counterparts in the target language is needed.

Sometimes the general meaning of the text is all you need. In those cases, MT provides an acceptable level translation. MT is a good option if you’re on a tight budget, looking for immediate translation, and are okay with less than perfect quality. Use MT to translate less important types of content like tweets, blog comments, blog posts, forums, or message boards.

MT Strengths

  • It’s the fastest way to translate your content into a new language.
  • It’s less expensive.
  • You can add a human review of MT to improve the quality.
  • You can use translation memories (TM) to remember your key terms.
  • You can integrate MT with a cloud-based TMS.
  • It’s good for translating web content and web pages.

MT Weaknesses

  • Depending on the language pairs, it has a 60 - 80% accuracy rate.
  • Some content translates better with MT than others:
  • Different languages work better with different MT engines.
  • Some MT engines perform better with different subjects.
  • It is difficult to translate technical terms, slang, or nuanced meanings.
  • It can lack flow and sound stilted.

Choosing the Right MT Engine

My suggestion would be to choose a TMS with a platform that integrates with several popular MT providers, so you can see your translated content immediately. If you have an MT provider that has an exposed API, most connectors should be able to integrate with it.

Some engines specialize in a special language group or region (such as Asian or Middle Eastern languages), others specialize by content type. There are many engines available on the market. The key is to research and consider the type of engine that will be a good fit for your content.

Content Value Index

Not all content is created equal. This Content Value Index lets you match your content translation needs with the right type of translation and review. MT offers good translation, community translation is better, and translation done by certified professional linguists is the best. The Content Value Index can help you determine if your content requires good, better, or best translation quality.

Use the Content Value Index to decide which type of translation is best for your content, time constraints, budget, and the level of quality needed.

Machine Translation

Sometimes the general meaning of a text is all you need from your translation. Machine translation in addition to Translation Memory (TM) provides the perfect combination of rapid, trusted and cost-effective translations when getting the general meaning across is sufficient.

Community Translation

Translating with community users provides colloquial and subject matter accuracy for lower cost and reasonable speed. Community translation is less expensive, but may not provide the level of quality and consistency offered by professional translators. Use Community Translation for knowledge base articles, video subtitles, simple web pages, podcast transcripts, Wiki entries, and online newspapers.

Professional Translation

Professional translation offers the highest quality and includes additional levels of review to ensure accuracy. Use Professional Translation for very important content like press releases, brochures, and white papers, to name a few items.


If you wanted to set a land speed record, you wouldn’t choose a bike. If you wanted to cruise around town and take in the sites, you wouldn’t choose a bullet car that travels over 300 mph. It’s all about choosing the right vehicle for the task at hand. The same is true for translation. There will be projects where MT is a perfect fit and there are other projects where it isn’t recommended. By understanding what MT is--the strengths and weaknesses—you’ll find that it is a perfectly suitable tool that can improve the cost and efficiency of your translations.


See How It Works

The Massive Benefits of Cloud-Based Translation Management System

Language is social. It connects people and ideas. But what happens when it stops connecting, slows down, and goes offline? What happens when your global audience is left in the dark because your translations are stuck in someone’s inbox? 

With the Translation Network, Lingotek makes your content accessible to your customers globally. By connecting your company with our technology and translators, we connect your ideas with the world. Lingotek makes going global possible.

Cloud Based Translation is Faster, Easier & More Efficient 
Lingotek revolutionized the translation industry with its cloud-based networked translation technology. With Lingotek, you get an enterprise-grade, end-to-end solution that you control. Bring your translation workflow into the 21st century and get out from under the old-school, on-premise, traditional IT, and proxy architectures that slow you down and increase your costs with budget-busting implementation processes and ongoing maintenance.

Agile Software That Offers Scalability and Responsive IT
Our next-generation technology continuously delivers multilingual content and scalability to meet your increasing needs for more content, storage, and translation management. Lingotek’s cloud-based technology can extract large amounts of data and scale to any project size on the fly. With our agile software, Lingotek can be more responsive and can match your evolving requirements with fast IT. 

Seamless Integration With Your Applications
Seamless integration with your enterprise applications and our translation management system lets you upload source content for translation, have it automatically translated, and download the translated content back into your original application.

Automated Workflows Put Your Translations on Autopilot
Put your translations on autopilot with customizable workflows that let you trigger actions throughout the project lifecycle. From notifying a reviewer when a translation is ready for review, to reporting project status to an external system, the Lingotek rules engine brings AI-like capabilities to your workflow.    

Continuous, Real-Time Collaboration for Round-the-Clock Translation
With a vast network of translators working in our powerful cloud-based translation management system, you get continuous, round the clock translation and real-time collaboration.

Centralized File Management Gives You Control Over Your Content
Out-of-the-box integrations with popular CMS, CRM, marketing automation, knowledge bases, and social business software means your information resides in your system, giving you visibility, access, security, and control of your files and information.

Scalable File Storage to Match Your Growth
Our cloud-based Translation Network offers scalability that auto-scales to increased volume levels, without no additional charge for more file storage. It  can scale as your usage grows. 
Secure Your Information With Controlled Access to Files
Content stored in the Lingotek cloud is fully secured and kept private to your organization. Role-based authorization ensures that users only see information if they have been granted access by your project administrator.





Translation Solution Needs

Lingotek offers a wide range of translation solutions to its customers. Whether you are in the enterprise or federal space, or want our world-class translation services team to take care of your localization for you, Lingotek offers corporate and global translation solutions that are custom tailored for your needs.













About Lingotek

Our Company

Lingotek | The Translation Network is a cloud-based translation services provider, offering translation management software and professional linguistic services. We are the leader in collaborative translation technology with an innovative cloud translation management system (TMS) that uses computer-assisted translation (CAT) tools to facilitate faster, more efficient, language translation. Lingotek was the first to introduce cloud-based TMS technology to the United States in 2006 with the launch of a fully online, web-based, computer-assisted translation (CAT) system that pioneered the integration of translation memories (TM) with main-frame powered machine translation (MT). Our multilingual application program interfaces (API) and connectors pair with the industry’s top enterprise applications to automate and integrate the translation process. They include:

  • Content Management Systems (CMS) 
  • Customer Relationship Management Systems (CRM)
  • Marketing Automation
  • eCommerce Platforms
  • Knowledge Bases 
  • Product and Support Documentation 
  • Social Business Software
  • Desktop Files
  • Software Localization

Customers can use their own language services providers (LSP) and linguists, or our global network of 5,000+ professional linguists. Lingotek is based in Lehi, Utah in the area known as Silicon Slopes. 

Our History

Lingotek was founded in 2006 and is funded by Signal Peak Ventures and In-Q-Tel

Signal Peak Ventures is a Salt Lake-based venture capital firm that focuses on early-stage technology investments in the Intermountain region. The firm was established as Signal Peak in 2011 after the spin out of Canopy Ventures venture capital team and the acquisition of portfolio investments in ten other companies. The Signal Peak team has extensive experience in sourcing, executing, managing, and divesting venture capital stakes across the Intermountain region. 

In-Q-Tel is a strategic, not-for-profit investment firm that works to identify, adapt, and deliver innovative technology solutions to support the mission of the U.S. Intelligence Community. Launched by the CIA in 1999 as a private, independent organization, In-Q-Tel's mission is to identify and partner with companies developing cutting-edge technologies that serve the national security interests of the United States. Working from an evolving strategic blueprint defining the Intelligence Community's critical technology needs, In-Q-Tel engages with entrepreneurs, growth companies, researchers, and investors to deliver technologies that provide superior capabilities for the CIA and the larger Intelligence Community. 

Our Clients & Partners

Lingotek  works with some of the largest, most innovative companies in the world, in a wide variety of industries and services including government, technology, finance, telecom, travel, and education. Our clients include departments in the U.S. Government and several large Fortune 500 companies. Here are some of the Customers that are trusting their translation processes with the Lingotek Translation Network.

We also work with a growing network of Partners--service providers, digital agencies, open sources technologies, and other strategically selected companies--to meet the unique translation requirements of our customers. 

Industry Recognition & Awards

Comparably Best Company Leadership 2018
Comparably Best Company Managers 2018
Top 100 Companies in the Digital Content Industry - EContent 2017-2018
Comparably Best Company Leadership 2017
Comparably Best Company Culture 2017
Comparably Best Places to Work 2017
Comparable Best CEO - Rob Vandenberg 2017
Utah Business Book of Lists Top Telecom & Technology Software Developers 201
Utah Best in State Language Services 201
Silicon Review List of Inspiring 100 Companies 201
Top 100 Companies in the Digital Content Industry - EContent 201
Top 30 Drupal Contributor 201
Top Translation Services Company 2016 - PFin
Hot in Lehi Award Top Trending Companies - Owle
Top 100 Companies in the Digital Content Industry - EContent 201
Edison Award Finalist 201
CIO Microsoft 100 Solution Providers CIO Review 201
Edison Award Nominee 201
Gartner Cool Vendor of the Year 201
Oracle Gold Partner 201
Stevie Award Best New Product or Service of the Year SaaS Category 201
Most Innovative New Product Utah Valley Entrepreneur Forum 2006

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