M. Fuentes Agustí, O. Torres-Hostench

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (SPAIN)
ProjecTA-U is a funded research project focused on the users of machine translation (Ref. FFI2016-78612-R). One of the branches of the project is studying the use of machine translation in higher education environments. With the advent of free machine translation (MT) systems geared to non-professional translation (Google Translate, Apertium, InterNostrum, OpenTrad, iTranslate4, Bing, PROMT and Lucy LT, among others), MT is now commonplace and used by millions of people every day. MT services are also offered by some public administration bodies (e.g. the European Commission's MT@EC resource). Free MT systems may already be in wider use than their professional counterparts, and are becoming firmly established as a means of urgent communication between people who do not speak one another's language. This project considers the use of MT by end users of online MT systems, outside professional translation, since it is a tool used every day in all kind of personal and professional situations.

In higher education institutions, students as well as lecturers from all disciplines need access to specialized information which may be in a foreign language they do not master, not only for classes, but also for research. While knowledge is more accessible than ever through specialized websites, blogs, MOOCs, free digital books, research papers, etc. and open access to research is more available than ever, language is still a barrier to understanding this knowledge fully, which could be overcome with the help of efficient machine translation engines. For instance, English is the worldwide academic language―it is the language of this Conference as well―but some students and researchers do not fully understand English and/or valuable knowledge is produced also in other languages.

In this project, we have three main objectives. First, to study the use of MT among digital users. Second, to measure the degree of usability of MT, understood as it is stated in ISO/TR 16982: “Usability: extent to which a product can be used by specified users to achieve specified goals with effectiveness, efficiency and satisfaction in a specified context of use”. Third, develop recommendations together with users involved to improve the use of MT for specific purposes.

In this paper, we present some preliminary results on the first objective. A survey on the use of MT among university students has been developed and it will be disseminated among different institutions and academic fields. Currently we have results of a pilot group from a degree in Primary School Education. Data on their background, foreign language competences have been taken into account as well as the need for foreign languages in their courses to understand texts in foreign languages as well as to write texts in foreign languages. The results show which machine translation engines they use, frequency of use, reason for using them and their perception of usability (efficiency, effectiveness and satisfaction). These preliminary results demonstrate the need for specific training in machine translation awareness and specifically, the adequacy and fluency of machine translation output. Moreover, the survey itself has been validated through this pilot study and the survey is ready for dissemination.