Machine Translation vs Human Translation

Machine Translation vs Human Translation

Translation services are a vastly growing business in today’s global climate. While technology has made it possible to connect with someone around the world in moments, it has increased the need for proper translation of documents, websites, books, and much more. While translation services are often available in different formats, you must be careful which is chosen because human translation is the only one that is one in such a way that not just the words, but the meaning behind the words is properly translated.

There are three main types of translation. These are complete human translation, computer/machine translation, and a combination of both. While computer translation is great for a single word or phrase, it does not necessarily consider grammar and cannot understand underlying messages. The same is true of a combination of human and computer translation in which common phrases are translated on the computer and humans translate the rest. This can actually cause a loss of meaning as well. So, human translation is the best option for translation of the majority of projects. A few reasons why are shared below.


Though machine translation is often faster, it cannot take culture into account in the translation. There is no way a machine could be programmed to do this. Since different cultures have lexical systems that are specific and unique to that culture, they can be impossible to program. Machines are not complex enough to recognize things like idioms or slang that are culture-specific. Though technology is advancing, we are nowhere near one that can be programmed to correctly do this. However, in-country speakers can accurately understand and translate these so that the meaning is not lost, yet cultural aspects are left intact. This is important because phrases and words in one culture may have totally different meanings in another and this must be taken into account for accuracy.


In many languages, words have dual meanings. This is especially true in English. Take the word “wound” for example. Wound could mean the past tense of the word wind or it could be an injury. When this word is translated by a machine, the wrong option could be chosen and lose meaning for a phrase or entire chapter. This is why human translation is so important. The translator can read the context of the word and choose a similar word when translated, for clarity.


New phrases are often developed in language based on dialect. Machine translators cannot pick up on these evolutions as quickly as a human translator can. To do so, a machine would need constant updates leaving it useless much of the time if the updates could be afforded and were available. A human can find a similar phrase to replace the original text. This is known as localization.

Style and Tone

Every piece of written material has a style and tone unique to the writer. Something can be poetic, persuasive, or funny in the style of writing. This style is used for a specific reason, but a machine cannot translate this as it is word and phrase programmed, not concerned with style and tone. Only a human translator can closely match the author’s words and style during translation. This creates a translated document that closely mirrors the original in a new language.

Human Interaction

When it comes down to it, humans will always be involved in translation. Even when a computer program is advanced enough to offer somewhat accurate translation that is understandable, a human must provide editing and proofreading to check for accuracy in the translation. The human translator puts on the finishing touches so the target audience will connect with the writing. This includes altering captions, catchphrases, and colloquialisms that are culturally specific. A human must be involved in each step, leaving the machine as simply a tool that ends up requiring even further intervention for a useful translation.


Human translators are highly trained individuals that are fluent in more than one language. These individuals can translate into a target language with continuity in tone, style, and message. This is important when you are trying to promote something online, share important documents, or share your written text with new parts of the world. Human translators are definitely the way to go if you are branching out into global markets.

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