Source: La Opinión de Granada

VICTOR, the Most “Formal” Machine Translator

Its principal novelty lies in its capacity to “undersand” the message, fruit of a decade’s work of a professional linguist.

CARMEN BANDERA: Its name is VICTOR and though it might sound like a person, in reality it’s a revolutionary English-to-Spanish machine-translation program developed by MTC Soft, a Granada-based software company. VICTOR was commissioned by Berca Translator, a local translation firm.

Its principal novelty lies in its capacity to transcribe not only the words of a text, but also its meaning. That is to say, “to understand” the message. “Until now nobody had created a machine translator with the necessary quality for professional work, and to achieve it we had to start from zero with a fresh analysis of the problem,” says Fernando Moreno-Torres, the company’s CEO.

This fresh analysis came from a professional linguist and translator with 20 years of experience in the European Commission in Brussels. After a decade’s work developing a new system she contacted MTC Soft three and a half years ago and asked them to create the necessary computer applications. The result has just been born and has had an excellent reception among translators, academics and business people. “The contribution of the linguistic analysis was what made the whole project possible,” explained Moreno-Torres, “permitting us to create a translator which is clearly better than those which preceded it. We’re talking about results which are on the order of 95% correct, and rising.”

There are various keys to the success of VICTOR. In the first place, there’s the process of linguistic analysis which converts “plain text” into “enriched text.” That is to say, the translator submits each word to more than 180 different routines in a matter of seconds and returns the text with all of its elements analyzed and labelled with their linguistic attributes. Thanks to this process of analysis, the program not only translates words, but the sense of the words.

Another of the challenges was to achieve a correct translation into Spanish, choosing the adequate equivalents for each word. To do that we had to create a custom-made dictionary with exhaustive information on each word and how they relate to one another.

“What surprised me most about the dictionary was its capacity to learn the subtleties of the language. The program is constantly learning more words, and there is less and less to correct. It produces an almost-perfect Spanish,” says Moreno-Torres. “The program can distinguish the different senses of the words thanks to its capacity to learn, thereby eliminating the incorrect equivalences which are normally so frustrating with machine translators,” he adds.

VICTOR is not intended to translate all kinds of texts. It won’t translate colloquial language, for example, as its function is to convert into Spanish formal texts, written in correct English, such as manuals, contracts, technical articles, etc.

This isn’t a software which you can buy and install in your computer, rather a service offered by MTC Soft. “The client sends us an English text and we translate it, revise it (only until the client’s personalize dictionary is finished) and return it to them in Spanish. In a short time it becomes a fully-automatic online service,” adds MTC Soft’s CEO.

The program only translates English into Spanish, and not vice versa, “because the process is in no way symmetrical. In principle, we don’t foresee the possibility of developing another program which translates Spanish into English.”

MTC Soft, founded in Granada in the early 90’s, started out in the software business developing management applications for Spanish notaries, and then for property registrars. In recent years they have diversified their offer to include more general applications, such as document management and machine translation.