Machine Translation vs. Human Translators: which should you choose?

By Jennifer Lee
In Translation
Jul 3rd, 2017
1 Comment

Machine Translation vs. Human Translators: which should you choose?

In a society of high-end technology that is continually developing, the world of human translation is constantly coming under new threats. Websites that can instantly translate entire essays, apps that actually simultaneously interpret what is being said, and tools that decipher any language at the click of a button. However, is machine translation really the way forward?

Many people who have not studied languages themselves often believe that translation is simply a word-for-word exchange of words between two languages. However, we as translators know this is not the case.

A good translation should sound natural and fluent, and is oftentimes a very creative process, as words and phrases must be rewritten and re-arranged in order to find an optimum translation which makes sense and appeals to the reader. Above all, a high-quality translation should keep the original meaning of the text and only a human translator can be aware of cultural sensitivities, familiarity of language, tone and idiomatic phrases; something a machine simply cannot do.


Machine Translation vs. Human Translators


Now, let’s talk about the advantages of machine translation. We’ll use Google Translate as an example, as it is the most widely used form of machine translation. First of all, it is free, which is a big advantage for most people. Human translators can be quite costly, especially if your document is very technical or specialised. Google Translate can also detect which language you are translating from and gives you instant translations into your chosen tongue. However, it is not available in every language and, most of the time, all you get is a word-for-word translation. Although this gives you a general idea of what the text is about, machine translations are often very badly worded and would sound “broken” if read by a native speaker.

As we mentioned, human translators are often pricey and more time consuming than machine translation too. However, real people can analyse every word and phrase they are working with, making sure the best translation is given to fit the context of the document. As well as this, translators often specialise in the field they are working on, so have an in-depth knowledge of the necessary terminology and can structure the translation in a way that flows naturally and in a meaningful way for the reader.

So, in conclusion, machine translations may work when you need a quick summary of something you are reading or to get the gist of what a document is about. However, if you are wanting to produce a professional, high-quality and natural sounding translation, stick with real people who you can work alongside with and ensure that you deliver the message you want to your audience.

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About "" Has 7 Posts

Jennifer is a freelance translator from Belfast, Northern Ireland. She studied a joint degree of French and Spanish at the University of Glasgow, through which she had opportunities to live in both France and Argentina. Her passions are literature, human rights issues and of course, language learning! She has a tortoise named Bob and a husband named Neil. Read more about her on Linkedin:

One Response to “Machine Translation vs. Human Translators: which should you choose?”

  1. Alex Marsh says:

    Machine translation provides results within a short period of time but are not accurate whereas human translated are much more accurate as they provide proper translation to another language, this is because they know the culture and the exact meaning of the thing which is to be translated. Thanks for sharing this important blog. Use machine translation when your content is small and less important and get instant result and for legal documents use human translation.

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