The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2022 - 31

GEEKSPEAK By Jost Zetzsche
Is the Machine Translation
Market Maturing?
One sign of a maturing industry or branches within an industry are
companies that evolve to cater to that specific industry branch. When
all kinds of companies and products rose up in the early 2000s to cater
specifically to translators (I'm not thinking of translation environment tools
here, but things like accounting tools, conversion apps, etc.), I took that
as a sign that " we " had kind of arrived. We were important enough that
companies could actually be sustained by building tools for us.
T
he machine translation
(MT) space is so
interesting when it
comes to this. It's not an
accident that the names
of most MT developers
are not known primarily
for building MT engines
(think Microsoft, Google,
Yandex, Baidu, Naver,
Amazon, etc.). These are
companies that might sell
access to their MT services,
but commerce alone likely
wouldn't justify the cost of
building and maintaining
them. In combination
with the primary purpose
of those companies-
which in all these cases is
strengthening their core
product (most often their
search engines)-it does
make sense to build an MT
engine and then sell it as an
additional benefit of sorts.
There are exceptions, of
course. While DeepL is as
secretive as ever, I think it's
probably not far-fetched
to assume that it's now
profitable. And companies
like Systran, KantanMT, and
a handful of others are also...
well, at least surviving. The
point is that despite the very
large relevance that MT plays
in most of our professional
lives, very few products have
become profitable.
There also have been
many attempts to either
automate the selection of
MT, like the now-defunct
FairTradeTranslation, or
verify the level of postediting,
like the Swiss
Post-Editing Score. The
Translation Automation User
Society (TAUS) has proposed
many approaches to MT over
the years that have usually
eventually been abandoned.
Nevertheless, I'm always
interested when there are
new products that try to
approach this from a slightly
different angle or, maybe
more correctly, stubbornly
try something again that
hasn't worked in the past.
Achim Ruopp is the founder
and chief executive officer
of Polyglot Technology, a
small company that offers a
product they call MT Decider.1
Its premise is really quite
simple, but it might be very
helpful for some.
Most translators use MT
in some way. Sometimes
it's the client who decides
what engine to use, but
sometimes it's up to us. The
vast majority of translators
will then make a choice
between the major available
engines without any
customization. (I know there
are exceptions, but overall
I believe that's true.) Some
translators have educated
opinions on which engine is
currently the best available
This column has two goals: to inform the community about technological advances and encourage the use and appreciation of
technology among translation professionals.
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American Translators Association 31
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The ATA Chronicle - November/December 2022

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