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TIP #22 - This tip was sent on the week: 2nd - 8th Jan, 2005

This tip applies to the following programs:

  • ESI Professional
  • ESI Standard
  • TDT Professional

How to Recognize a Good Translation Program?


Trying to compare one translator system against another one is a very difficult task, especially because there are no generally accepted standards to evaluate Machine Translation.


Examples of failures in translation or an occasional wild interpretation could be construed as to mean a "bad" translation engine, whereas lucky examples, or examples specifically presented by the manufacturer of the system and known to perform well, could also be construed as to mean a "good" translation engine.


Naturally, the manufacturer will try to present only those examples where he knows his system is going to perform with excellence, and carefully avoid the other cases. The same thing will be done by a competitor.


Since there is no universally accepted test and the possible number of sentences is too large, if not actually infinite, the comparison method becomes more a subjective endeavor rather than an objective, scientific evaluation.


So… how do you know which system is best? Or, at least, which one is best for you?


Let’s leave the problem of trying to determine which translator is “best” to the linguists and scholars, and concentrate on the more immediate question of “Which one is best for you”

  1. Determine how much you are willing to spend on the translator. Our prices range from $25 to $1000, depending on the dictionary size and the functionality. You would not buy a luxury car if all you need is a bicycle. Or vice versa.
  2. Try to obtain as much factual information as you can about the system before you buy. You would not buy a car either if the manufacturer does not let you know the engine horsepower, speed and other special characteristics. So, in a translator, you should ask about dictionary size, number of inflected (virtual) recognized words, expected accuracy percentage, is the translation output literal or contextual, does it handle idiomatic language, does it preserve document format, does it offer other special features… etc.
  3. Once you have the final candidates, perform the following test: Take any 10 random sentences in English and translate them into Spanish. Count the number of perfectly translated sentences and give them 1 point each. Then compare the score obtained with the different programs.
  4. Now, perform the final acid test: Take the perfectly translated Spanish sentences and translate them back into English. Calculate the score again using the same method. Don’t be surprised if this test gives awfully bad results. That does not necessarily mean that the Spanish translations were bad. It is a problem of the different syntax structure of both languages. However, if you obtain a good score on the back-translated text, it will definitely mean that the program performed a great job.
  5. Take into consideration that buying tools that will help you in your work or your education is never to be considered expenditure. It’s a life investment.
  6. Remember also the wise old American saying: “There is no free lunch”. At the end, you get what you pay for.

    We say: It’s a fact that using ESI PRO Interactive Mode:

    1) The time taken to translate a document is reduced substantially.

    2) Your effort is reduced substantially and,

    3) You have more optional words and expressions at hand to choose from, even your own pre-marked options and your added words.

The only way you can corroborate this is by trying it. You cannot believe everything you read in a world deluged with tons of misleading publicity. And you can try it out using the Acid Test described above. The system that yields the highest number of correct back-translated sentences is by far the best!

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