TALK TO US! 800-531-9977,
|  Login

Comparison of Free MT Tools and How They Stack Up to a Professional Language Service Provider

submitted by Lisa Siciliani, Sales Support Services 


How do free online translation tools compare with each other?

Ever used a free online translator and wondered how the most popular online translation tools compare in quality?

If so, you’ll be interested in a recent survey of Google Translate, Bing (Microsoft) Translator, and Yahoo Babelfish. John Yunker’s May 17 article, Google, Bing and Babelfish: What’s the best translation engine? is a great summary of the results. One interesting find is that “brand” perceptions of the three machine translation (MT) tools significantly impacted quality ratings. Once those brands were masked, ratings for Bing improved by 21% compared to Google, and Babelfish rose by 136% against Google!

Ethan Shen of Gabble-On Translation Tools and Research has made the survey results of Phase 1 available for free (no registration required) at Public Comparison of Online Machine Translators. Visitors may also download a PDF of the full research survey.

Gabble-On is now conducting the second part of their survey Machine Translation Comparison - Phase 2 and invites you to participate. In Phase 2, engines from Systran, Babylon, and Promt will be added to the comparative survey.


So why work with a translation company when these sources are free?

As technology evolves, language service providers are producing an exponentially increasing amount of information, making it incredibly costly and time-consuming to obtain a quality human translation for each and every document, and so many translation companies offer a variety of services applying machine translation (MT). However, when seeking out an MT solution, one must consider the security issues involved in addition to the purpose of the target translation.

When a translation is created using a free online tool, such as Google, that information is kept in Google’s database indefinitely. If a user is trying to obtain knowledge about sensitive material on a free resource, this could put the company or its clients at risk of breaking confidentiality agreements. Understanding who owns the rights to the translation is imperative!

Translation companies often offer several MT solutions based on the varied purposes of the target translation. Options may include:


  • Raw MT – machine translation that has not been enhanced with terminology glossaries, editing, or review. Though a translation company may use an untrained engine that is only slightly better than the free online tools, you will gain project management expertise and security, for an extremely affordable price.
  • MT via a trained engine – a trained engine consists of machine translation that has been enhanced with technical human translation. There are various ways to achieve a trained machine translation: through applying a client’s preexisting glossaries, terminology, or translation memory, by requesting that the translation provider create terminology lists with the help of qualified linguists, or by the agency using an engine that has been pretrained. Though the overall results will still reflect the lower quality of automated translations, searchability, legibility, and technical accuracy of the documentation will be enhanced significantly.
  • Post-edited machine translation (PEMT) – the best value to be obtained from machine translation is via a post-edit. The post-editing option includes review by a highly qualified linguist with expertise in the document’s subject matter. This process is typically half the cost of a full human translation, and although it won’t be of the same quality, it will be legible and technically accurate.  An additional upside to PEMT is that the level of editing to be done to a document can be decided on once the machine translation has happened and areas of interest have been determined. Please note, PEMT documents cannot be certified, and for any document to be used in court, a human translation is recommended.




Global By Design




Foreign Patent Filing Information for Laymen

18. June 2010 12:31 by Administrator in   //  Tags:   //   Comments (0)


Submitted by Lisa Siciliani, Sales Support Services

For project managers assigned the task of patent translation for filing in foreign countries, the byzantine world of patent documentation and terminology can be overwhelming. A few key issues explained in layman’s terms for those of us who are not attorneys may help to alleviate some confusion and consternation.

Patents around the world is an overview of the patent systems for the major global intellectual property and trademark offices. Skimmable and fact-filled, this European Patent Office webpage begins with descriptions of the various offices, which are interesting when comparing procedures, even if the statistics are a little dated.

Immediately following these descriptions is the first “Aha!” topic for the uninitiated. Did you know that while U.S. patent law is based on a “first-to-invent” principle, almost every other country worldwide follows a “first-to-file” system in their patent regulations?

As you can imagine, this plays into the filing strategy for individuals and firms who don’t have an unlimited budget for intellectual property protection. Just imagine the legal tangle that can result! McElroy has helped many clients as they frantically scramble to obtain the strongest, most uncontestable translation for a patent whose foreign filing deadline has suddenly turned out to be three days away. “Is anyone making coffee?”

The EPO goes on to outline some of the national differences in what can be patented and how many patents will be required for coverage. For instance, your timeline is certainly going to be impacted if a single original patent must be converted into multiple documents for translation to meet the standards of the Japanese Patent Office.

Differences between U.S. and European patents as described on Ius mentis has several easy-to-understand sections on some variations in what can be patented. You have to love this author’s humor in the statement, “It should perhaps be pointed out that ‘skilled person’ and ‘obvious’ do not mean the same in patent law as they do in real life.”

An important point we can take from this discussion is that superior patent translators can actually assist clients with their patent applications by virtue of their knowledge of proper structure, order of the claims, and other content issues within the patent documentation. The best patent translations are grounded in superior linguistic expertise, subject matter expertise rivaling the inventor’s, and knowledge of patent law for the target country. I’m sure experienced patent translators could add more to these requirements.

The generalization about translation costs in Foreign Patent Filing provided by Smith and Hopen, P.A. isn’t very accurate for budgeting purposes because of the wide range of factors that go into determining costs such as:

·     Word count – Is this one little 2,000-word patent, or a single or multiple patents totaling 20,000 words?

·     Language pair and translation direction – The difference in costs here can easily be threefold.

·     Subject matter – Patents in well-established, common technologies will of course have a larger base of linguistic experts to choose from than those on the “bleeding edge” or in niche fields.

However, Pitfalls 3–5 listed at the bottom of this webpage, while super-simplified, describe critical facts if you are considering filing a patent in both the United States and another country.

Because language nuances are so critical in crafting a patent that is not only defensible, but even deters challenges (thus the expense of defending against them), we recommend you allow adequate time and a reasonable budget for the best translation possible. The return on investment can be enormous.



This is not legal advice. Please consult an intellectual property attorney for specific guidance on patent law.



European Patent Office
Ius mentis, Law and technology explained
Smith Hopen


McElroy Translation

McElroy Translation has 41 years of industry success helping clients meet global language needs by providing medical, legal, technical, and business translation, as well as software and website localization.

Month List

Copyright © 1999-2014, McElroy Translation. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Contact Us | Learn More