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Machine Translation Types: Choosing the Right Type for Your Needs

July 31, 2023 No Comments

By Viktor Zdraveski

Machine translation is a sub-field of computational linguistics that uses software to translate text from one language to another without or with limited human involvement. One of the critical considerations when handling this type of software is conducting a machine translation evaluation as a part of the process to ensure the quality of the translations. By evaluating the accuracy and quality of machine translations, developers can improve the performance of their systems and ensure that they are meeting the needs of their users. There are several types of machine translation, each of which analyzes and processes content differently. 

These are the most common types of machine translation:

– Rule-based machine translation (RBMT)

– Statistical machine translation (SMT)

– Hybrid machine translation (HMT)

– Neural machine translation (NMT)

– Syntax-based machine translation

Rule-based machine translation (RBMT) 

RBMT uses a set of rules to analyze the source language and generate content in the target language. It relies on linguistic knowledge encoded in transfer rules, which define how to map source language constructions into target language constructions. This type of system requires extensive linguistic knowledge and is time-consuming to develop, but it can produce very accurate translations with minimal effort from the user.

RBMT systems divide the text into words and then translate them individually before slightly correcting the morphology and harmonizing the syntax.

The accuracy of RBMT depends largely on the quality of the input data and the amount of effort put into creating it. While this method can produce high-quality translations, it is also time-consuming and expensive due to its reliance on manual coding.

Statistical machine translation (SMT)

This type uses statistical models to generate translations based on large amounts of parallel data. It doesn’t require any prior linguistic knowledge but instead relies on large datasets to learn how to translate words and phrases from one language to another. SMT systems can quickly learn and produce high-quality translations with minimal effort from the user.

People use SMT in a variety of contexts, such as speech recognition or natural language processing (NLP). In NLP applications, they often use SMT to produce translations of written text. By training an SMT system on parallel datasets—sentence pairs extracted from documents originally written in different languages—the system can learn to produce translations that are accurate and well-structured.

Neural machine translation (NMT)

This is an advanced form of SMT that uses deep learning algorithms to generate more accurate translations than traditional SMT systems. NMT uses large datasets containing millions of sentences in both languages, which enables translating words and phrases between languages more accurately than traditional SMT systems.

This internal representation allows NMT systems to make more nuanced decisions when choosing words and phrases for translations. In addition, since these systems use artificial neural networks, they can continue learning over time. With more data added, their accuracy becomes increasingly higher.

NMT has quickly become the preferred method of machine translation due to its accuracy and scalability. The potential applications for this technology are vast, from automated customer service to real-time language translation in apps and websites. NMT is quickly becoming a cornerstone of the majority of MT translation software tools, and its potential for improving translation accuracy is only just beginning to grow.

Hybrid machine translation (HMT)

HMT combines both rule-based and statistical approaches for translating text from one language to another. It combines the accuracy of RBMT with the speed and scalability of SMT, making it a powerful tool for quickly producing top-quality translations.

By combining different types of machine translation, hybrid systems can better handle complex linguistic phenomena such as idioms, slang, and grammar rules, which are difficult to deal with using traditional methods.

Hybrid machine translation often works in combination with other technologies, such as natural language processing and artificial intelligence (AI), to improve the accuracy of translations. For example, you can use an NLP system to identify the meaning of a sentence, and then an AI system could help suggest appropriate words or phrases for translation.

Syntax-based machine translation

Finally, this is an approach that focuses on preserving the structure or syntax of the original sentence when translating it into another language. This approach relies heavily on natural language processing techniques such as parsing trees, semantic analysis, and discourse analysis in order to accurately preserve syntactic structures across languages.

The first step is to segment a source sentence into phrases and then translate it phrase-by-phrase with some reordering of the translated phrases in order to better capture the meaning of the original sentence. The system also takes into account domain-specific temporal tagging, which helps it to better understand how to use words in different contexts. 

So, what type of machine translation should you use?

As you can see, each of the MT types offers its own advantages. When deciding which type of machine translation you should use, it’s important to consider your specific needs and budget. Consider whether you need fast translations on a limited budget or plan to work on larger projects that require more accuracy.

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