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Tips: How to Increase the Accuracy of your Translations using Software

Properly preparing your text or document before it is translated can drastically improve the accuracy. You will be amazed at the increase in level of accuracy when you use these tips.


Quick Overview

The accuracy of the translation varies according to the text that was input. Here are some very important tips to help obtain better translations:

  • The original input text has to be grammatically correct.
  • Remember that a missing accent mark can change the meaning of a word.
  • Use complete, grammatical correct sentences.
  • Punctuation is important; clauses will translate best if separated by commas.
  • Try to use simple, direct, declarative sentences.
  • Avoid ambiguity (examples: 'the moving car' or 'moving the car', rather than 'moving car'; 'the brake light and the tail lights' rather than 'the brake and tail lights').
  • Avoid abbreviations and colloquialisms (example: a word like 'snakes' in the sentence 'The road snakes around' will not translate properly if the word 'snakes' is not used as a verb in the target language).

Be Direct. Write in a Simple, Clear Manner
Systran can handle complex sentence structures but avoid getting too complex, ambiguous phrases, extra clauses, and sentence fragments, and unnecessary words.

Concise and To The Point
Use complete short sentences and do not leave out necessary grammatical elements.

Do Not Leave Out Necessary Words
The English language allows us clearly to convey our intentions even when we omit certain words, such as relative pronouns (who, whom, that, which), prepositions, and parts of verbs. These words are required in other languages and must be included in documents that will be translated.

Avoid using Idioms or Slang
Idioms or slang documents you plan to translate as these terms differ from country to country. Terms commonly used in the US will not accurately translate for use in other countries. Example of an idiom:: take the wind out of (one's) sails - To rob of an advantage; deflate.

Insert Proper Punctuation.
Make sure you insert appropriate punctuation. Punctuation offers guidance for both humans and computers. It is used to divide a sentence into logical parts.
Without correct punctuation, sentences can be interpreted in several ways.

Check for Accurate Spelling
Check your spelling and use your spell-checker before clicking the translation icon. If you give the computer incorrect information, your translation will be misinterpreted.

Use Articles Whenever Possible
An article is a word used to indicate a noun and to state its purpose. For example, in English, the definite article is 'the' and the 'indefinite articles are 'a' and 'an'. Use of articles reduces ambiguities.

Consistent Use of Terminology and Abbreviations
Always use the same word, phrase or abbreviation to describe the same object or actions each time that they appear in a document. Inconsistent wording can cause confusion for both humans and computers. Example, a serial number for computer software can be called an activation code, serial number or computer code.


Building Your Own Dictionaries with Systran

Creating your own User Dictionaries is really the key to improving the accuracy of your translations. Your dictionary overrides the default translations. Building a Dictionary with Systran is very easy and with the new built in "part of speech" selector you can build a dictionary as well as the experts.  There are a few tips that will help you in building this dictionary. When adding words remember there can be double meanings for many English words.  

The following word has two meanings:

1. Wind; meaning, a strong breeze. (The word wind is a noun.)
2. Wind;  meaning, To wrap (something) around a center or another object once or repeatedly. (The word wind is a verb.)

With Systran's dictionary coding you can control how to translate the word "wind" by choosing the part of speech option in the software.

How to add "wind" to the translation dictionary 
You want to add the identifier with the word for example, in the dictionary put in "the wind" (noun) "a wind" (noun) and then also add "wind up" (verb) "to wind" (verb). Now when you translate your document and it has these words/ phrases it will see how it is used in the sentence to determine the translation.

Do not put put in plurals or punctuation, let the software handle that during the translation process.

Follow Original Source Language Conventions

Follow all the conventions of the original source language, even if you know that the target languages use different approaches. For example, German writers capitalize nouns that other languages leave in lower case. If you know that your users translate your site into German, capitalizing nouns is not the route to follow: Translation Software is likely to consider these words proper nouns and leave them untranslated. Chinese does not use periods. Anticipating this by omitting periods leaves your text devoid of signals that are vital to MT.

Retranslate and Validate
Once you have translated your text and you have either Systran Standard or Systran Premium you can add words to the dictionary. Once the changes to the system are saved, retranslate the text to verify that the new entries are in effect. It is important at this stage to check for regressions. Regressions occur commonly in MT output. They can sometimes originate with an incorrectly coded dictionary entry. For example, a user might supply a translation that is correct in the context of one sentence, but incorrect in another context.

Translation Memory

The more advanced version of SYSTRAN give you the ability to build Translation Memories,

I like to describe translation memory as a dictionary of full sentences. Many times documents may reuse the same sentence over again in another document. Translation Memory allows you to preserve these full sentences or segments so they can be reused.. Why edit the same sentence again, save it for future use.


Translating Back and Forth to Check Accuracy

A common misunderstanding about evaluating the accuracy of the translation is the belief that back translation can determine if the original translation was accurate. Back translation consists of translating text into a target language and then back into the original source language. For example, the system translates text from English into Spanish and then it translates the results from Spanish back into English.

The theory is that if back translation returns English input exactly, the system performs well for this language pair. In reality, you cannot tell if errors occurred during the passage to Spanish or during the return passage to English. In addition, any errors that occur in the first translation into Spanish cause more problems in the back translation. Also keep in mind that both languages were developed separately, so the original translation from Spanish to English may be 100% accurate but when translating the results from English back to Spanish the dictionary may not have one of the words, therefore the back translation is not a good comparison.


For more tips on using automated software click here.