Google Translate is the web’s most popular machine translation service. With support for over 60 languages, Google Translate enables web users to translate almost any web page. However, these translations are often less than perfect, and sometimes riddled with errors. Fortunately, Google offers a little known but very useful feature that enables you to have human translators replace and correct these machine translations.
While most of the translations are machine generated, Google Translate presents a “Suggest A Better Translation” feature to readers. Normally these suggestions are not applied immediately, but instead are fed back to train the machine translation system for future use.
When using the Google Translate Widget on your own website, you can configure it so that suggestions, once approved by trusted reviewers, will replace the default machine translations. This is a really useful feature because it enables you to use machine translation for a first pass, and then have human translators edit or replace the machine translations. Translators use the same “suggest a better translation” dialog to submit their revisions, and because they edit the translations in line (within the existing web page), they can understand the context in which the text appears.
Translator edits will appear in a queue of suggested translations within your administrator console. There you can grant editor privileges to the people you’ve approved as translation reviewers. These people, in turn, can accept or reject proposed translations. Once the suggested translations are approved, they override the machine translations and will appear to everyone who views your site in that language.
This process, referred to in the industry as hybrid translation, enables you to optimize for quality, cost and speed. Human translators only need to touch the translations that have noticeable problems. This reduces the amount of work they need to do to translate a page, often by 50 to 90% when working from a decent quality machine translation. Because machine translation is instant, new pages and content are translated as they appear, whereas human translator take time to translate new texts (4 to 24 hour turnaround time is pretty typical for a translation agency). This approach is especially useful for sites that publish content that ages quickly because they can have people edit texts that really matter, while using “good enough” machine translation for content that will age quickly and is not worth translating by hand.