Enterprise Translation Systems

December 10, 2008

Update: December 14, 2008 I came across Nice Translator at http://www.nicetranslator.com/

Original Post

I received an email from a colleague who wanted to know about translation systems. I fired back an answer, but I thought you might want to have my short list of vendors to peruse. If you run a search on Google for “enterprise translation software”, you get more than 400,000 hits. That’s not too useful. If you want to experiment with free translation services, download this file.

BASIS Technologies licenses its various translation components to a number of search and content processing vendors; for example, Fast Search & Transfer was a customer. BASIS has been a leader in providing machine translation of Arabic and related languages. The Federal government has been a fan of BASIS’s systems. You can get some very specialized translation and language components; for example, a Japanese address analyzer.

Google provides a pretty good translation system. Right now, it is for free, which is a plus. Some of the translation systems shoot into six figures pretty quickly if you pack on the language packs and custom tuning. You can use the Google system by navigating here: http://translate.google.com. You can fiddle around and automate translation, but I have heard that Google monitors its translation system, so if you push too much through the system, the Googlers follow up. You can feed it a line of text or a url.

Language Weaver automated language translation. The company serves digital industries and enterprise customers directly and through strategic partnerships. You can hook this system into other enterprise software. Employees can access documents in their native language.The company recently added new language pairs:

  • Bulgarian to/from English
  • Hebrew to/from English
  • Serbian to/from English
  • Thai to/from English
  • Turkish to/from English.

Systran has been a player in translation for years. You have to buy Systran’s software. The desktop version works quite well. The enterprise system involves some fiddling, but you can automate the translation and perform some useful operations on the machine-generated files. You can get more information about Systran here. Systran is used for the Babel Fish online translation function in AltaVista.com and Yahoo.

How good are these systems?

None of the systems is perfect. None of the systems translates as well as a human with deep knowledge of the language pairs being translated. However, the speed of these systems and their “good enough” translations can cope with the volume of data flowing into an organization. I use several of these systems. I can get a sense of the document and then turn to a native speaker to clarify the translation.

I have unsubstantiated information that suggests Google has been making considerable progress with their online translation system. Because the system is available without charge, Google is becoming the default system. AltaVista.com still offers an online translation system, but Google has surpassed that system in speed and language pair support. When Google integrates its online translation system with its other enterprise services, I think Google will continue to chew away at the established vendors’ market share. The GOOG, however, seems happy to let customers find their online translation service. The economic downturn may shift the Google into higher gear.

Stephen Arnold, December 10, 2008


4 Responses to “Enterprise Translation Systems”

  1. Mike Unwalla, TechScribe, UK on December 10th, 2008 3:30 am

    Quote: How good are these systems?

    If the source text is clear, the automated translation is ‘good enough’, as you write. A large problem with automated translations is the low quality of the source text.

    The best guidelines that I have seen for writing clear source text are in ‘The Global English style guide: writing clear, translatable documentation for a global market’ by John R Kohl, 2008 (ISBN 978-1-59994-657-3). The book explains how to write text that is optimised for machine translation. Although the book’s title contains the word ‘documentation’, the guidelines apply to most business texts.

  2. Martin from Berlin on December 10th, 2008 9:25 am

    I follow to the point that writing for a documentation should be clear. But:

    “The book explains how to write text that is optimised for machine translation.”

    this gives me a headache. Let’s step back for a second. Isn’t it the purpose of computers to help humans in their daily tasks (business, private)??

    I resent the idea that authors train themselves to write text that is easily digestible for a machine. The goal is that computers have to adopt to human behauviour (or needs) – and not the other way around.
    E.g., I also like to read Stephen’s Blog because of the way he uses the English language. Hopefully, he’s not going to read the book you recommended and continues not to restrain his active vocabulary.

    Let’s not lower the pass-grade for Translation Systems.

  3. Bariatric Surgery : on October 28th, 2010 2:17 am

    hey can anyone point me out on free translations tools ? “~:

  4. Beverage Dispenser · on November 14th, 2010 6:44 am

    is there something like a free translation service that we can use online ? “””

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