Language translation software isn’t likely to allow you to lay off your bilingual staffers — at least not right away. But applied with discrimination and lots of preparation, translation tools can be fantastic productivity aids. And researchers say new approaches to this old discipline are greatly improving the performance of the tools.
Ford Motor Co. began using “machine translation” software in 1998 and has so far translated 5 million automobile assembly instructions into Spanish, German, Portuguese and Mexican Spanish. Assembly manuals are updated in English every day, and their translations — some 5,000 pages a day — are beamed overnight to plants around the world.