Someone almost always wants to know about free online translation services. And they're always surprised when I say, "Absolutely! Don't pay for something you can get for free!"
There's more to it than that, of course, and when the surprised laughter stops, I go deeper.
People have talked about machine translation since the 1800s, and the first patent was filed during the 1930s.
It's not a new idea. However, progress has been slow, as linguists originally underestimated the depth and complexity of human languages.
When I was an undergraduate studying computation linguistics, we were told that within 5 years, all translators would be out of business. Indeed, machine translation (MT) has come a long way in the decades since I finished my degree, and it can do amazing things today, but the translation industry is larger than ever before. With both options available, how do you know whether MT or human translation is best for a particular application? I lay out this issue by direction and usage.