In our Multilingual Communications as a Business Imperative report, we noted the fact that machine translation (MT) has long been the target of “don’t let this happen to you” jokes throughout the globalization industry. Unpredictable results and poor quality allowed humor to become the focus of MT discussions, making widespread adoption risky at best.

On the other hand, we also noted that scientists, researchers, and technologists have been determined to unlock MT potential since the 1950’s to solve the same core challenges the industry struggles with today: cost savings, speed, and linguist augmentation. Although the infamous report on Languages and Machines from the Automatic Language Processing Advisory Committee (ALPAC) published in 1966 discussed these challenges in some depth (albeit from a U.S. perspective), it sent a resounding message that “there is no emergency in the field of translation.” Research funding suffered; researcher Margaret King described the impact as effectively “killing machine translation research in the States.”

Borrowing from S.E. Hinton, that was then, this is now. Technology advancements and pure computing power have made machine translation not only viable, but also potentially game-changing. A global economy, the volume and velocity of content required to run a global business, and customer expectations is steadily shifting enterprise postures from “not an option” to “help me understand where MT fits.” Case in point — participants in our study identified MT as one of the top three valuable technologies for the future.

There’s lots of game-changing news for our readers to digest.

  • An excellent place to start is with our colleagues at Multilingual Magazine, who dedicated the April-May issue to this very subject. Don Osborn over at the Multidisciplinary Perspectives blog provides an excellent summary, posing the question: “Is there a paradigm shift on machine translation?”
  • Language Weaver predicts a potential $67.5 billion market for digital translation, fueled by MT. CEO Mark Tapling explains why.
  • SYSTRAN, one of the earliest MT software developers provides research and education here.
  • And finally (for today), there’s no way to deny the Google impact — here’s their FAQ about the beta version of Google Translate. TAUS weighs in on the subject here.

Mary and I will be at Localization World Madison to provide practical advice and best practices for making the enterprise business case for multilingual communications investments as part of a Global Content Value Chain. But we’re also looking forward to the session focused on MT potential, issues, and vendor approaches. The full grid is here. Join us!

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