SUMMER MUST BE HERE, GIVEN TIME’S silly-season ode to machine-language translation technology that is supposedly coming soon and will eliminate language barriers [July 16]. The elusive goal of having computer software that will translate text from one language into another has fired the public imagination for five decades, fueled by monolingual journalists’ reports. Yet nowadays savvy business users look beyond the hype. If you are pressed for time and want to get the gist of something for your own use, machine translation may be helpful. It is certainly fast and cheap. But raw machine-translated texts are simply not suitable for online publication: you run the risk of looking inarticulate and stupid. Careful editing of machine output by skilled human translators is one option, although not all translators will accept such assignments. Many insist that texts generated by computer programs are so skewed it is faster simply to start from scratch.
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