Demystifying AI-powered machine translation

Emma Wheal 14 Aug 2023 4 mins
Language Weaver
AI has been a hot topic for many months now, with wild predictions that it will make us mere mortals redundant or become sentient and take over or destroy the world. However, this sheds little light on what AI actually is, how it works, and how organizations can use it in the here and now.
AI-powered machine translation tools are already transforming the way companies collaborate with colleagues, communicate with global audiences and access new markets. It is now possible to reach many more people around the world in their own language and to do so much quicker and cheaper than ever before.
So, what exactly is AI translation technology, and Machine Translation (MT) in particular, and how can it help businesses grow?

What is AI translation?

Machines have been used to assist translators in their work for many decades now. Today, machine translation (MT) is a form of AI-enabled translation that can perform instant, automatic translation of text from one language to another without any human intervention. MT that relies on complex machine learning algorithms, using neural networks and/or natural language processing, is known as neural machine translation (NMT).
Our Language Weaver platform is built on NMT and uses deep neural networks based on how the human brain works to train models for different language combinations and content types to produce accurate and natural sounding output.
It is important to note, at least in the current landscape of translation technologies, that NMT is distinct from generative AI. While both leverage AI deep learning and natural language processing, NMT aims to produce text translation where the given output matches or maps to the text input exactly.  Generative AI on the other hand is a broad term that covers AI systems that generate new content including audio, code, images, text, simulations and videos.

What are the benefits of using AI in translation?

In essence, AI-powered translation tools remove the language barrier for organizations so that they can manage multilingual content and data in real time and at scale.  It enables seamless communication with colleagues and global audiences – as well as facilitating analysis of multilingual data to inform and aid decision making.
Speed and efficiency
A key benefit of using AI-powered translation tools is their ability to translate large volumes of multilingual content quickly – from documents, reports and presentations to chatbots, emails, and websites. Work that would take a human translator weeks to complete can be done in minutes. It also enables live automatic translation in say a chatbot at a scale and speed that would be almost impossible to replicate with human translators.
A high volume of information is often frustratingly locked away in documents, multimedia, and databases that are inaccessible for analysis simply because the content is in a foreign language. 
AI solutions can translate all this currently inaccessible content quickly – helping you to sift through and identify the key data or information for insight.
For example, it can be useful when researching customer sentiment in different markets to rapidly identify areas that need immediate attention or pick up useful suggestions for improvements. It can also be useful in eDiscovery or digital forensics, when vast amounts of data need to be analyzed to gain insights and inform decision making. Often such valuable information lies buried and inaccessible within the organization – AI helps you to discover, synthesize and act upon it quickly.
Customer engagement
Buyers like to get information in their native languages. Our very own Unlocked 2023 research report, published earlier this year, revealed that 93% of global consumers surveyed think it’s important for global brands to speak to all customers in their own language at all times. The experience of eBay and other ecommerce portals bears this out – there is clearly great commercial value in making large product catalogues with millions of product listings available in multiple languages.
AI-powered machine translation offers a very cost-effective solution to quickly expand into new markets by making your content understood by audiences, prospects and customers anywhere, in any language.
Seamless collaboration 
Effective communication and collaboration is critical for global or multinational organizations. The best AI-powered translation tools can scale with you as you grow to meet your teams’ global communication needs for operational activities and service delivery.
Today, going the extra mile to provide robust and easily accessible multilingual customer support that addresses customer needs through a variety of channels is now essential to doing business. To support customers and operate effectively, colleagues across different geographies need to communicate clearly despite language barriers. An MT solution can enhance internal communications and facilitate the ability to share ideas, concepts and strategies faster and more seamlessly.
Security – the hidden risks of public AI translation tools
People’s first thought is usually to use one of the many free online translation tools – think Google Translate. While such tools may be great for casual, ad hoc usage for consumers (for example to understand a menu in a foreign country while travelling), what most people don’t realize is that they are not built for business use and there are serious security risks associated with using them. The text you put into these free tools is often used for further mining and product enhancement by the provider, opening your organization up to potential data breaches and loss of intellectual property.
Today, teams within a global organization are often distributed around the world, making it increasingly important to interact with colleagues, customers and stakeholders in their preferred language.  This often involves dealing with sensitive commercial, legal or technical information that needs to be securely shared via emails, documents, presentations or other materials. A machine translation technology such as Language Weaver provides a scalable solution for businesses of all sizes, and very importantly, with full control and security over your greatest asset – your data.
Adapting to your content
What if you require translated content to be tailored to your business needs and preferences? 
Adaptation takes machine translation to another level. Advanced adaptive capabilities allow the input from users, and their feedback, plus other cumulative experiences, to train the MT to learn and produce more specific and tailored output, attuned to the specific terminology used by an organization. In addition to leveraging user feedback to adapt MT, internal translation departments can maintain translation memories, which can then be used to further customize the MT models and improve the quality and consistency of translations again and again.
The result is continuously improving results that become increasingly fine-tuned to the organization’s unique terminology, style guide, use case and industry context over time. This in turn significantly reduces the time needed to correct the MT output in the post-editing process.
For example, in industries such as legal, scientific or financial that have very specific terminology it allows precise translation of domain-specific content. In addition, it allows organizations to consistently apply their preferred terminology, style and tone of voice.

When will you unlock the value of global understanding?

Today’s advancements in AI in translation technology are revolutionizing the way you create, manage, translate and make sense of content. Are you ready to reap the rewards? Find out more about how Language Weaver can help support you with your translation needs.
Emma Wheal

Emma Wheal

Marketing Manager
Emma is Marketing Manager for Language Weaver at RWS, delivering thought leadership on machine translation solutions for global organizations.
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