Originally published on Kirti Vashee’s blog eMpTy Pages. Lilt is an interactive and adaptive computer-aided translation tool that integrates machine translation, translation memories, and termbases into one interface that learns from translators. Using Lilt is an entirely different experience from post-editing machine translations — an experience that our users love, and one that yields substantial productivity gains without compromising quality. The first step toward using this new kind of tool is to understand how interactive and adaptive machine assistance is different from conventional MT, and how these technologies relate to exciting new developments in neural MT and deep learning. Interactive MT doesn’t just translate each segment once and leave the translator to clean up the mess. Instead, each word that the translator types into the Lilt environment is integrated into a new automatic translation suggestion in real time. While text messaging apps autocomplete words, interactive MT autocompletes whole sentences. Interactive MT actually improves translation quality. In conventional MT post-editing, the computer knows what segment will be translated, but doesn’t know anything about the phrasing decisions that a translator will make. Interactive translations are more accurate because they can observe what the translator has typed so far and update their suggestions based on all available information.
Though machine translation has been around for decades, the most you’ll read about it is the perceived proximity to the mythical “Babel Fish” --an instantaneous personal translation device-- itself ready to replace each and every human translator. The part that gets left out is machine translation's relationship with human translators. For a long time, this relationship was no more complex than post-editing badly translated text, a process most translators find to be a tiresome chore. With the advent of neural machine translation, however, machine translation is not just something that creates more tedious work for translators. It is now a partner to them, making them faster and their output more accurate.