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Advances in machine translation may reduce law department costs

James Fallows, writing in the Atlantic, April 2007 at 132-133, explains that a new method of computer training has dramatically increased the quality of translations, even of very difficult languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Arabic. The software uses brute-force statistical analysis. Its designers search constantly for documents already translated by skillful linguists (patents, perhaps?). The software then compare the original to the translated document and the software gets better and better at matching the translation process. Even small numbers of paired documents train the software quite well.

Some law departments spend significant sums on translation of patent applications as well as on various forms of agreements. As this genre of software becomes more capable, in-house translation costs should plummet (See my post of Feb. 9, 2006 about translation software for non-English speaking lawyers.).