Human vs Machine Translation

In a world where AI and “bot” technology is replacing humans at an ever-increasing rate, the question is often posed whether customers should consider utilizing machine-based translating services like Google Translate for their document translation. Although it seems like a simple question, the answer is it depends.

For many businesses, going global is a must.  This means having to translate their websites to reach a new foreign audience. For immigrants, applying for citizenship in a new country with a different language often means having to get personal documents translated. Or, maybe you’re just a student applying for a visa to intern in Paris for the summer. Depending on your unique situation, finding the best translation service often involves picking between human and machine translations. Of course, there are pros and cons to both options:

HUMAN POWERED TRANSLATION

Humans are uniquely able to interpret language from a real-life point of view, so they can understand subtle emotional and linguistic cues when translating documents.  Machines simply can’t do this. This is especially true when important business or legal documents are being translated and simple misunderstandings can lead to disastrous results.

Humans are more consistent, and “get it right” when translating information.  Not only does this give you greater peace-of-mind, it means you can trust humans with your sensitive information.

Lastly, let’s not forget that this still gives human beings a job, and benefits the economy as a whole!

A significant disadvantage is that humans are simply not as quick as machines. This is often the result of the additional time required by humans to leverage cultural knowledge, which ensures better accuracy

Humans are typically more expensive, and this is the bigger trade-off for translation accuracy

MACHINE POWERED TRANSLATION

The most obvious perk of using machines for translations is their speed and minimal maintenace. This ultimately increases efficiency: more work in less time for less money. Many solutions are free and readily available, like Google translate (unlike human translators that don’t seem to want to work for free for some reason…)

If the goal is to simply get a basic understand of a foreign language with minimal cost, a machine translation is the ideal solution

Multiple languages can be translated through one system, whereas human translation would require multiple people to translate different languages

Machines can only translate simple language structure and intent.  Otherwise, it is often inaccurate.  When you try to translate something through Google, the software is usually a smart but limited algorithm to determine the translation, so complex languages, phrases, and words ‘out of context’ will easily confuse the system

Machines aren’t able to understand context and cultural aspects of languages.  This is one of the major considerations in accurate translation; the human brain has a significantly more sophisticated language algorithm and therefore much less prone to similar translation mistakes.

As often is the concern with new technological services powered by machines, there is concern on the impact to society and the economy, since it ultimately means humans are being replaced

Depending on how the data is managed and accessed, security can be a negative aspect to machine translation.  While there is always risk of sensitive information being compromised, the broad availability of data on the internet opens the door even wider to hackers and similar exploitation

SUMMARY

Overall, machine translations are typically cheaper and faster, but in most cases never more accurate than humans (though we’re still pretty quick over here at Lingomod). Here at Lingomod we offer both options; usually our customers want a clear and accurate translation so the majority of our work is done by our staff of expert, native human translators.  However, there are cases, especially with our legal industry customers, where a large volume of information needs to be evaluated quickly for the basic meaning, and this is where we provide machine language translation services.

As mentioned before, and must be said again, the answer is it depends on our customers’ needs!