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Avenues to Improvement of Translation We have already noted that, while we have machine-aided transla- tion of general scientific text, we do not have useful machine trans- lation. Further, there is no immediate or predictable prospect of useful machine translation. We have noted that the important contributions of machine trans- lation have been primarily to linguistics and secondarily to computer programming. We have noted that while translation itself is vital, needs for translation are being met by a small though capable activity. We find, however, that there are attractive opportunities for improvement in translation, and we urge work aimed at such improvement. We have noted the importance of quality in transla- tions. We have noted that cost varies markedly with asserted quality. It is important, therefore, to achieve some objective evaluation of accuracy and quality. Work toward practical useful tests, such as that described in Appendix 10, is of the greatest importance. Machine aids may be an important adjunct to human or machine- aided translation. USAF Foreign Technology Division (FTD) figures show that production costs (assembly and reproduction of the final translations) are very high. It appears that delays in translated journals are attributable to production rather than to translation. Adoption of mechanized means of editing and production might be desirable (see Appendix 17~. Here the main cost of research and development can best be borne by other, larger fields than translation. Machine-aided translation may be an important avenue toward better, quicker, and cheaper translation. What machine-aided translation needs most is good engineering. What will help the human being most—special glossaries, dictionary look-up of some or all words in the text, or a rough translation such as that pro- duced by FTD? How can the delays due to queues at many tandem steps be avoided ? How can production costs be cut ? 32
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Automatic character recognition is often mentioned as important to machine- aided translation. FTD figures indicate that automatic character recognition could slightly decrease the cost of the opera- tion. Automatic character recognition work is being supported heavily in connection with several kinds of activity (information retrieval, post office, for example) where the financial savings through successful character recognition would be much greater than in machine-aided translation. Hence, character recognition should be adopted when and if it will save money, but research and development need not be supported in connection with machine translation. Finally, how much should be spent on research and development toward improving translation? It would be unreasonable to spend extravagantly on a relatively small business that is doing the job satisfactorily. The Committee cannot judge what the total annual expenditure for research and development toward improving translation should be. However, it should be spent hardheadedly toward important, realistic, and relatively short-range goals. 33
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