This blog post is about a Personalized Translation EngineTM that is about to be released. It’s called SlateTM, a machine translation engine that you build from your own translation memories and keep on your own machine. An exciting idea. Is it for translators like you and me?
First, let me clarify that I hold no commercial interest in Slate or in Precision Translation Tools, the company behind Slate. I haven’t even tested Slate, because it isn’t on the market yet (or rather, the Windows version isn’t). So this post is really me thinking out loud, at the same time as airing the topic, in case anyone hasn’t heard about Slate yet.
What is Slate Desktop?
It’s a Windows application based on Moses (a statistical machine translation toolkit) that you will be able to integrate in your CAT tool to get machine translation (MT) suggestions. In the case of SDL Trados Studio, for example, Slate would be listed as an MT provider. You should be able to train the engine more or less off the shelf, through its GUI (graphical user interface).
How does it differ from Google Translate?
This is where it gets interesting. You feed Slate your own translation memories (TMs) and other bilingual resources. It processes these resources on your own machine, typically overnight, and sets up your own personal engine. This means Slate will use your terminology, copy your spelling and mimic your style, which is a very exciting concept (and something Google Translate will never achieve).
The other big difference is that there are no confidentiality issues; you don’t even need to be connected to the internet.
TM size and computer requirements
A TM needs to have at least 100,000 translation units to start producing meaningful results in Slate. The first time you set it up, you can combine TMs and other resources to train Slate. Later, the engine can be regenerated by adding more resources, but it won’t be updated in real time, as you work.
Your computer must have at least 8 GB of RAM and 250 GB of free disk space.
The Windows desktop version of Slate is being crowdfunded through an Indiegogo campaign. So if you contribute now by buying a “perk” for $330, you get Slate Desktop at a 40% discount. Or you can wait until it’s released in January 2016 and pay $550 for it.
Will Slate produce good results?
That’s the burning question.
In my case, I have a big medical TM that definitely meets the size requirement. Some of my TMs are client specific, but only one of them is approaching the minimum size for Slate.
So, thinking out loud (and please join in this open conversation in the comments below), and looking at the types of medical texts I translate, one by one:
- Clinical trial agreements are repetitive and I can imagine that Slate would produce excellent results for them, but my TM already returns very high matches for these projects, so my increase in productivity would be minimal.
- Other clinical trial documentation (investigator brochures, protocols, etc.) is quite monothematic and repetitive. Slate could be very useful for this.
- Articles for medical journals are confined to specific medical fields, so in theory Slate could be useful, but in practice each article is a world of its own, reporting new procedures and findings. Slate would simply leave any unknown terminology untranslated. On the other hand, strict journal style would be respected, so Slate will know that I always spell e-mail with a hyphen, and it won’t suggest that a patient “suffers” symptoms as I have never used this expression in my TM.
- Product information (SmPCs, package leaflets and labelling) could benefit from Slate, but my own TMs in this field aren’t that big. I can’t use the publicly-available EPARs, because they’re too poorly aligned to feed into an MT engine.
The jury is out
I haven’t paid upfront yet (or made that “leap of faith”, as Slate’s Tom Hoar aptly phrased it in his interesting and informative webinar, which is still online). I expect I will jump on the Slate bandwagon, because I love trying out new translation technology and the temptation is huge. And it might just be fantastic for my work.
But before I make the final decision, I’d love to hear from you. How do your TMs size up? Do you think Slate would be useful in your work?