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The Differences between Human and Machine Translation

It is a classic tale about the trade-off between speed vs accuracy.  When it comes to translation in business, accuracy weighs more important than speed.  So you probably are wondering, “Why wouldn’t I just use Google Translate to translate my company content and material?”.  Yes, Google Translate is a helpful tool, but companies can’t rely on it for producing professional, comprehensive results for their content and campaigns.  Read more to learn about the difference between machine and human translation to help you decide what is best for your company.

Machine translation

Machine translation is exactly as it sounds, software that takes text in one language and converts the original source into another language.  This is achieved through programmed rules and dictionary databases.  The converted text is often accurate, but machine translations use literal translations that can produce errant sentences.  As a company, these errant sentences can be humorous in the best cases, but in the worst cases can cause offense or create problems for customers.  In more recent and advanced cases, artificial intelligence (AI) has evolved to account for some sentence structure and grammatical correction.  

The main benefit of machine translation in a business use case is speed.  In situations where a minimal amount of understanding is needed, but speed matters such as conversation via email, machine translation is a helpful tool.

Human translation

Human translation is the process of a person fluent in multiple languages converting text or spoken dialog from the original source to the desired language.  Typically a company will hire a translator through a translation agency or find a freelance translator.  Human translators are effective in capturing the original meaning of sentences, unlike machine translators.  To learn more about this process, also known as Transcreation, check out our Transcreation Service page.

The main benefit of human translation in a business use case is accuracy.  Humans fluent in both languages are able to account for subtle nuances, emotion and grammatical structure that machines often miss.  The accuracy of content is important for a company’s professional image and effective communication with customers.

Final Takeaway

We’ve all heard the saying “lost in translation”.  Losing something in translation is more common when using machine translations, because words are taken out of context and translated literally.  Human translators are the best tool for businesses focused on quality communication with people outside their native language.

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