An Introductory Guide
D.J. Arnold, Lorna Balkan, Siety Meijer, R.Lee Humphreys, Louisa Sadler
From the Preface
Automatic translation between human languages (`Machine Translation') is a
Science Fiction staple, and a long-term scientific dream of enormous social, political, and scientific importance. It was one of the earliest applications suggested for digital computers, but turning this dream into reality has turned out to be a much harder, and in many ways a much more interesting task than at first appeared. Nevertheless, though there remain many outstanding problems, some degree of automatic translation is now a daily reality, and it is likely that during the next decade the bulk of routine technical and business translation will be done with some kind of automatic translation tool, from humble databases containing canned translations of technical terms to genuine Machine Translation Systems that can produce reasonable draft translations (provided the input observes certain restrictions on subject matter, style, and vocabulary).
Unfortunately, how this is possible or what it really means is hard to appreciate for those without the time, patience, or training to read the relevant academic research papers, which in any case do not give a very good picture of what is involved in practice. It was for this reason that we decided to try to write a book which would be genuinely introductory (in the sense of not presupposing a background in any relevant discipline), but which would look at all aspects of Machine Translation: covering questions of what it is like to use a modern Machine Translation system, through questions about how it is done, to questions of evaluating systems, and what developments can be foreseen in the near to medium future.