Serdar Yegulaip wrote an interesting post entitled “Talk to Me, Openly” that is up on InformationWeek’s site, dealing with open source machine translation. While there are a number of very active open source translation memory projects out there, with OmegaT being one of the most popular among freelancers, open source machine translation hasn’t sparked the same level of interest.
Personally, I find machine translation more interesting than threatening. I think that the day when human translators will be put out of business by MT is far, far off, likely beyond the lifetimes of any of us who are working in the industry now. However, I think that MT’s use in areas where speed and cost are more important objectives than quality, or where writers are willing to use a very restricted vocabulary, is really interesting. For example, at a translation technology seminar that I attended this summer, the presenter gave an anecdotal example of MT being used to translate online knowledgebase pages for a large technology company. Apparently, when the company then surveyed people who read the machine-translated help pages (and who knew that the page they were reading had been translated by a computer rather than a human), their rates of satisfaction with those pages were only slightly lower than the satisfaction rates of people who read similar documents translated by humans. To me, that’s more intriguing than anything else, and I’m interested to see if the open source community jumps on the bandwagon.