Common Sense Advisory: Europe’s Leading Role in Machine Translation

Common Sense Advisory

Europe’s Leading Role in Machine Translation

How Europe Is Driving the Shift to MT

By Arle R. Lommel and Donald A. DePalma
June 2016

Executive Summary

Multilingualism is a core value of the European Union. In order to solve the integration challenges posed by 24 official languages, plus additional regional and minority languages, technology must play an important role. In a survey of 900 global enterprises, language service companies, and freelance translators about their experience with machine translation (MT), we found that Europe has taken a leading role in the development and implementation of this technology. Among our findings are the following:

  • MT provides a strong export market for European companies. The majority of current demand for machine translation services comes from North American tech firms, but the overwhelming majority of global supply comes from small and medium enterprises in Europe, a sector that the European Commission has identified as “the backbone of Europe’s economy.”
  • MT is no longer just for big players. In the past, machine translation was expensive, labor-intensive, and suitable only for large enterprises. But recent developments – many of them in Europe and led by EU projects such as Moses – have made it more accessible to the full spectrum of companies.
  • Post-editing leads growth in translation capacity. Translation volumes continue to rise and enterprises target increased numbers of languages. “Pure” human translation cannot meet anticipated volumes, but post- edited machine translation (PEMT) will enable human translators to do more. Most of this increase in demand will be for European languages.
  • Enterprises and LSPs have an expanding spectrum of options. Three enterprise MT adoption models meet the demands of various sorts of buyers. At the same time, post-editing options are enabling European LSPs to use PEMT to improve productivity and meet client demand.
  • Business content leads, but user-generated content is increasing. Core business content leads commercial demand for MT. User-generated content is challenging and remains largely untranslated, but is especially important in the EU.

Europe’s Leading Role in Machine Translation