This article describes the technology behind Lilt’s interactive translation suggestions. The details were first published in an academic conference paper, Models and Inference for Prefix-Constrained Machine Translation. Machine translation systems can translate whole sentences or documents, but they can also be used to finish translations that were started by a person — a form of autocomplete at the sentence level. In the computational linguistics literature, predicting the rest of a sentence is called prefix-constrainedmachine translation. The prefix of a sentence is the portion authored by a translator. A suffix is suggested by the machine to complete the translation. These suggestions are proposed interactively to translators after each word they type. Translators can accept all or part of the proposed suffix with a single keystroke, saving time by automating the most predictable parts of the translation process.
The translation and localization industries have changed quite a bit over the last few decades. Over the course of that time, we’ve seen the power and might of machine translation as it’s started to revolutionize the way translation is done.