Machine translation (MT) is translation performed by a computer, normally with minimal if any help from a human translator. It is sometimes called instant or automated translation and has been in existence for several decades. There are a number of computer assisted translation tools (CAT) that help to integrate MT. These are often used by professional translators when working on translation projects.  Even though this method is quicker and cheaper, it’s no real substitute when it comes to legal translation for court documents.

In the United States, machine translation is not used for the whole translating process of legal documents as it’s not permitted under the requirements laid down in the U.S. court system. This is because of the specific characteristics of legal language. Often, courts ask for certified translations for documents that are to be used to help make important court decisions in hearings and trials. MT cannot certify a legal translation. It’s only if a legal document is edited by a human and then certified would it be considered legal for court purposes.

Finally, legal documents in court cases often cover matters that are confidential and sensitive. So confidentiality is an important feature in a legal translation. A professional translator and a translation agency will sign a confidentiality agreement with a client.

This means everything involved with the evidence which needs to be translated is kept confidential. Machine translation when conducted online does not have inbuilt security. MT, or even MT when offered by legal translation agencies which don’t offer any security, could be accessed through “the cloud”. This could present some security issues if anything is leaked before a court case takes place.

Machine translation does not include any way of monitoring quality and there are limitations on what a translator can expect a computer to do.

 

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