What Is Neural Machine Translation and How Does It Work?

Adedamola Ojedokun
28 Dec 2023

4 min. read


Translation from one language to another has long been a challenging task, requiring human brain and numerous hours of labor. Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) have, however, given rise to a novel approach known as neural machine translation, which offers a promising solution to this difficulty.

But what is neural machine translation?

This article explores what neural machine translation is and how it works, including its advantages over traditional translation methods (such as Google Translate) and its wide-ranging applications.

Pro tip: To effortlessly translate your content, leverage the power of neural machine translation coupled with a comprehensive translation management system, like Centus. Learn more.

What Is Neural Machine Translation?

What is neural machine translation

Neural Machine Translation (NMT) is a type of machine translation that uses deep learning, a form of artificial intelligence, to translate text from one language to another. It relies on large neural networks, which are computer systems modeled after the human brain, to analyze and translate languages. NMT is known for its ability to produce more accurate and natural-sounding translations compared to traditional rule-based or statistical methods.

How Does Neural Machine Translation Work?

How does neural machine translation work

NMT translates text based on the context and overall meaning of sentences. It uses large neural network models trained on vast datasets of bilingual text. These models learn to predict the probability of a sequence of words in one language corresponding to a sequence in another, enabling more natural and fluent translations. NMT has significantly improved the quality and efficiency of machine translation by better capturing nuances and idiomatic expressions.

The core component of NMT is its neural network architecture, which consists of an encoder-decoder framework.

  • The encoder processes the sentence input in the source language and converts it into a fixed-length vector form known as sentence embedding. This embedding captures the semantic meaning of the source sentence.
  • The decoder, on the other hand, uses the encoder's phrase embedding to generate the matching translation in the target language. The decoder is trained to produce the most accurate translation by making word-by-word predictions based on the words it has generated.

Advantages of Neural Machine Translation

Using neural machine translation systems has several advantages over the human brain and traditional translation methods that have made it the go-to technique for many translation tasks.

Enhanced translation quality

A neural translation model can capture complex linguistic contexts and patterns due to their deep neural network architecture. As a result, grammatical errors are rare, and translations appear more natural.

The fluency and coherence of the translations generated by NMT models improve when they gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between languages through training on huge parallel corpora.

Contextual understanding

NMT models excel at capturing contextual information and determining the intended meaning of a statement. These models can leverage their neural network architecture and attention mechanisms to produce contextually appropriate translations that consider the entire source sentence.

Adaptability to multiple language pairs

Neural machine translation is a versatile, scalable, and adaptable solution for multilingual translation workloads.

Human translators and other traditional translation systems rely on language-specific rules, making them less adaptive when translating across multiple language pairs. NMT models, on the other hand, can be trained using a single, unified framework that can support a wide range of language pairs.

advantages of neural machine translation

Neural Machine Translation use cases

Neural machine translation systems have proven to perform amazingly well in different domains by leveraging the power of neural networks. Here are some of the key applications of neural machine translation:

Cross-border communication and global businesses

Effective communication across language barriers plays a key role in successful collaboration, negotiation, and expansion. Neural machine translation provides accurate and on-demand translation services, allowing for seamless cross-border communication.

Companies can use neural machine translation technology to communicate with international partners, reach a larger audience, and overcome language barriers, thereby encouraging global growth and opportunity.

Localization of software, websites, and multimedia content

When companies enter new markets, they must adapt their software, websites, and multimedia content to the local languages and cultures of the new markets.

NMT provides a powerful localization solution to ensure that the translated text properly conveys the intended message while also capturing the cultural references specific to the target audience.

NMT automates the translation process, thereby streamlining the localization workflow, saving time and money, and also maintaining consistency and quality.

Enhancing language learning and research

NMT systems allow language learners to access translated resources, practice conversations, and receive rapid feedback on their language proficiency.

Neural machine translation technology also assists researchers in analyzing and extracting data from multilingual sources, thereby allowing for the discovery of cross-lingual knowledge and the facilitation of cross-linguistic collaborations.

Pro tip: To manage a complex translation project, leverage the power of NMT along with a professional localization suite. With it, you can save time and achieve the highest quality of translations. Learn more.

To Sum Up

NMT is the next logical step in the development of traditional machine translation methods. However, unlike its predecessors, NMT leverages learning algorithms to create contextually-relevant translations with unparalleled accuracy.

NMT can effectively translate multiple language pairs, making it indispensable for global business, software localization, language learning and research.

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