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How computers are breaking down language barriers

The first wave of research in Machine Translation came to an abrupt end in 1966. An influential report concluded it had no prospect of success, and there were no economic reasons for using it anyway. Much of it was abandoned for the next decade, with resources poured into developing electronic dictionaries instead.

language barrierBut when ASLIB held the first Translating and the Computer Conference in 1978, things were beginning to change. The European Commission was seriously considering using computers to overcome language barriers. Researchers and translators came together to explore its practical aspects and share visions of the “translator of tomorrow”.

They might not have foreseen the huge leaps translation technology would make in 35 years. Now much of what they could only imagine has become a reality. Global businesses and organisations routinely use machine translation to communicate across borders. In today’s fast-moving global economy, machine translation is becoming an acceptable (or often the only) solution in many cases.

This year’s event, starting on Thursday in Paddington, London, will explore some of the latest advances in machine translation. The conference is a unique opportunity for researchers, translators and buyers to meet. It brings together representatives from companies, governments and international organisations from all over the globe.

Lingo24’s Director of Machine Translation, Professor Andy Way, will be presenting a paper on Emerging Use-Cases for Machine Translation. The soaring demand for translation means that there is far more than the current pool of translators can manage. He’ll explain how today’s statistical machine translation engines can be rapidly customised to fit clients’ requirements, and achieve impressive results in a short space of time.

Andy will look at new uses for machine translation, including the ever-expanding mountains of user-generated content on the web. He will also argue that developers and translators need to work together closely to get the best results.

Sergio Penkale, Lingo24’s Senior Machine Translation Specialist, will speak about Tailor-made Quality-controlled Translation.  Measuring and evaluating quality has been a hotly discussed topic since the very earliest conferences in the 1970s. Now Lingo24’s Coach technology, combined with the latest machine translation tools, can deliver tightly controlled levels of quality to meet customers’ demands.

Some of the other highlights of the programme include keynote talks by Will Burgett, Intel’s Program Manager of Localisation Innovation and Lucia Specia, a Senior Lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Sheffield. Other speakers will explore topics such as crowdsourcing, translation memories and mobile apps.

There will also be a panel discussion, looking at the sheer number of options for translation and how to ensure adequate quality. And an exhibition area will showcase some of the latest technology.

If you’re going to the ASLIB Translating and the Computer Conference, we’d love to hear from you! Get in touch on Or check out our technology and translation services.

Hazel Mollison

Hazel Mollison edits and writes for the Lingo24 blog. After studying Italian and German at Cambridge University, she worked as a journalist for five years with regional and national newspapers. She enjoys writing about languages, translation, online marketing, and helping small businesses explore new opportunities.

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