Free or commercially available machine translation (MT) software cannot be expected to render with accuracy the meaning of a foreign-language text, and thus MT systems cannot guarantee that their output is suitable for any purpose other than obtaining the gist of a text. The result can be a very poor translation, leading to a negative image for the client and potentially loss of business.

One other aspect of the translation process that MT systems will never fulfill is the human communication between translators and clients: professional translators are trained communication specialists who take pride in their work, are readily available to respond to any concerns and additional requests–even the subtlest ones–from their clients, and are committed to assisting their clients in achieving successful communication outcomes.

Another important point to be made concerns the use of online MT with respect to confidentiality. Confidentiality is a fundamental value in translation, which is compromised by those MT tools that store information online. The information fed into an online MT tool remains stored in the engine and can be accessed and used by others. Thus, access to proprietary information could be in the hands of third parties alien to the duty of confidentiality that binds a translator with a client.

In short, machine translation does not offer the consistently high quality and accountability that a professional translator does, and information obtained by means of machine translation cannot be considered reliable. Therefore, users of publicly and commercially available machine-translation software should be aware of the dangers involved, such as compromised quality and confidentiality, and making any decisions or taking any actions based on machine-translated information shall be at the users’ own risk.

International Association of Professional Translators and Interpreters (IAPTI)