There is an ongoing demand for translations of documents, large and small, from one foreign language to another. Language services provide human(HT) and machine technology (MT) to meet this demand. When English is the source language for frequent translations to French, German, Italian, Portuguese, or Spanish, MT can be used more often. Since accuracy and quality may be compromised, MT is best used for general information translations, not for specific localization.
When you think about money spent for value received, there are a few things to consider.
1 – Whether MT or HT is used for the translation, the average price per word varies only slightly from one country to another. There would be very little effect on price except for a very long (thousands of words) document. The most obvious cost savings with MT come from eliminating the cost of paying an outside or in-house translator.
2 – MT translations will be of little value when knowledge of a specific field; i.e., medical or legal requires a professional human translator. The same is true if the translation is an official government document that requires a licensed or specific professional translator.
3 – Machines can’t think; their output is based solely on input. MT alone does not have the professional HT skills needed to translate content in proper context for its original purpose. Certainly, you pay less for an MT translation, and it might fulfill its purpose, but not for final professional publication.
The quality of using MT by itself is probably not going to be the best translation. But, MT combined with human post-editing will produce a quality product at a lower cost. In fact, the use of MT and human post-editing has become an acceptable standard for many translations. The most obvious cost savings with MT occur by eliminating the cost of paying an outside or in-house translator.
Post-editing an average MT-translated document takes about one hour @ average hourly wage of $18. Assume MT for initial translation and one hour post-editing, then 20 documents could be completed for the cost of one outside vendor translation. Although the demand for translations continues to grow rapidly, fully automated translations are not predicted for the future. Professional human translation gives better value for money spent. The value will increase by including post-editing of the translation by an in-house professional.