Calculating the Costs of Machine Translation

When considering the cost of machine translation (MT) for your organization’s tech stack, you might be daunted by complex information floating around the Internet. Determining the factors that affect the overall cost can feel like trying to solve a murky equation. This issue often steers professionals away from finding the perfect MT solution for their company.

Understanding machine translation costs doesn’t have to be as difficult as some make it out to be. Leveraging MT software in an organization brings added convenience, clarity, and ease to your workflows. Deducing the cost of adopting MT software so should be just as simple.

SYSTRAN isn’t like the rest of the MT vendors on the market who muddy the waters. We strive to bring crystal-clear understanding to the entire process of implementing MT software into your organization, including with an expert in the loop. In this article, we’re going to break down the factors that influence MT costs.

6 Factors That Influence MT Costs

As with all software, there are certain elements that go into the price you pay for neural machine translation, or NMT. Understanding those factors will make the overall operation cost a lot more digestible.

These are components that will play into any MT software you choose to work with, but they are definitely applicable to SYSTRAN’s platform. As industry leaders, our experience allows us to provide a microscopic look at what makes up the cost of MT software.

Without further ado, here are the six most elemental factors that influence machine translation costs:

1. Volume of Translation

This one is fairly self-explanatory. The number of translations that you expect your organization to do in a month will greatly affect the overall amount you pay for the software. Determining this number can be a smart thing to do before investing in your chosen platform.

How large is your organization? How many offices do you have? Are you intending to use your MT software to communicate with numerous clients? What about jargon heavy items like patent translation? What about internal communication between offices and/or departments? These are all critical considerations when it comes to determining the amount of translating you expect to do.

Machine translation can be incredibly beneficial for global corporations with offices spanning multiple continents. It’s important not to underestimate the amount that you’ll use your MT software because if you’ve never implemented one into your organization before, you probably don’t realize how often it will be useful.

In sending correspondence from department to department, from office to office, and from client to client, the amount of translation you do in a month will likely be higher than you think. This is where it’s important to choose a platform that can scale your operations and keep things cost-effective at the same time.

2. Pre-Built vs. Custom Glossary

This factor is a large difference between MT translation platforms. Some of them only allow your company to access pre-built glossaries and engines. That means that you’ll be working with a glossary with general terms, and potentially even industry-specific terms if you’re lucky (but you’ll have to pay for the additional pre-built, industry-specific glossaries).

However, some platforms allow for even more customization than that. The right MT platform will allow for custom-built glossaries, which means that businesses in technical industries with specific terminology and jargon can ensure consistency across the board. The benefit of customizing your translation engine and glossaries cannot be overstated.

Many businesses are more at risk of compliance violations than they realize. If your MT platform isn’t accurately translating the exact terminology you need to communicate sensitive information, you could be placing your organization in a vulnerable position. Custom glossaries engines typically cost extra, but they are also incredibly valuable in specific instances.

3. Format of Translation

Text translation is the most common format and the one you’re going to encounter most often. If you want further formats than that, it will increase the cost of your services. Do you need real-time message and chat bot translation? What about text-to-speech capabilities? Expect to pay more for those features.

Don’t forget that text translation also happens in multiple formats and document types, which will affect the overall price. Some MT providers charge more if you’re trying to translate PDFs or PowerPoints (and others are ill-equipped to handle those formats at all).

4. Real-Time Translation

This is one of the most valuable capabilities to leverage with an MT platform. Rather than wait for entire documents to be translated before you can use them, there may be times when you need immediate results.

Real-time translation might be necessary in speech-to-text transcripts or customer service phone lines. Finding an MT software that allows for this advantage can go a long way in facilitating additional communication in your organization and doing so immediately. It will also be a player in the overall operational cost you’re paying.

5. Security Levels

When dealing with sensitive information (as many global organizations do), you need heightened levels of security across your entire tech stack. Many executives underestimate the prominence of security in MT software and why it’s essential to conducting compliant business operations.

If you’re still running sensitive information through applications such as Google Translate or other free (or inexpensive) MT platforms, you may be violating your contracts. Google Translate doesn’t have the level of security necessary to handle sensitive internal or client information.

To keep all of your data safe—and to stay compliant—use an MT platform with high security levels. This will be factored into the total cost, but it’s a non-negotiable component.

6. Users Required

Lastly, the number of users you’ll require will influence the bottom line. For large organizations, you may need to give logins to hundreds of team leaders, executives, and front-line specialists. On most MT platforms, each user you add will increase the cost of operating your MT software. (Read more about the difference between MT and MTPE here)

However, you can’t understate the importance of the right people having access to the platform. It will allow you to fully take advantage of the services you’re paying for.

MT Pricing Models

Now that you know what goes into the cost of machine translation, we can break down the specific pricing models so you know exactly what you’re paying for. It’s important to note that these models are based on SYSTRAN’s pricing.

System Setup

The cost of setting up your system is the first part of the pricing model. This includes how you store your data, which is either in the cloud or in a dedicated server. It also includes language pairs, selected glossaries, vocabularies, and translation memories. If you choose to use custom memory building and/or human-in-the-loop input, those are options you can add.

Translation Cost

On most platforms, the cost of the actual machine translation process is charged per character. If you’re wondering why machine translation charges per character instead of per word, it’s because it’s the most finite means of measuring text. Word lengths will vary, but the character count can’t be altered.

However, with SYSTRAN, unlimited translation is available. Rely on a flat fee rather than a fluctuating monthly bill or ever-changing numbers of translation credits.

Use SYSTRAN For Accurate and Trustworthy Machine Translation

Machine translation is far cheaper than pure human translation. This is one of the reasons that organizations start looking into MT services for their internal and external communication needs. When looking into AI translation, it’s only reasonable to wonder if you’re sacrificing accuracy for the price. While that might be the case with other vendors, it’s not with SYSTRAN. Our software is rated nearly as accurate as human translation, but at scale. Book a demo with SYSTRAN’s experts today to learn more about what we can do for you.

Alan, Machine Translation Expert (US Market)
6 Min Read
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