Human Translation vs. Machine: Who Wins?

by | Jan 4, 2021

It is a matter of debate whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) will eventually replace human labor. For all multi-national businesses, content translation has become a key tool for communication and growth. Companies have two options to choose from when translating their content: machine translation or old-school human translation. Today, machine translation has come a long way. Due to cheap costs and instant results, it is often preferred over human translation. But is this a good thing?

It is being claimed that translation through AI will eventually be on par with human translation.  But does that mean we can do away with a fool-proof translation by a trained linguist? Read on to see how these two options compare.

Human Translation vs. Machine: Who Wins? 1

Human Translation Is Slower Than Machine Translation

Let us say you are constrained by your budget and you are just beginning to expand into overseas markets. Machine translation promises a quicker turnaround and may prove to be more cost-effective for you. All you have to do is run a document through a program. Human translation, on the other hand, is complex and requires time. And, for some businesses, human translation may not even be necessary.

Machine translation is an automated process for translating textual content from one language into another. The most basic applications rely strictly on substituting one word for another. Some software incorporates statistical or rule-based methodologies for more accurate translations. Machine translation is most suitable when organizations require speedy, one-off translations and accuracy is not of high importance.

Machine Translation Does Not Understand Cultural Connotations

Machines cannot pick up on cultural mannerisms or linguistic phrases. This is often where human translation is essential. A human trained in the required language can delve deeper into the content and make subjective decisions. They can also identify the needed tone and employ idioms that resonate with the audience.

Human translators can also avoid disaster by being unintentionally offensive to a local audience. Therefore, human translation is the right choice for you for high-quality content designed to build an emotional connection with your target customers.

Machine Translation Does Not Understand Context and Tone

Context is key to translation. Translation software often struggles with polysemy,  the capacity for a word or phrase to have multiple meanings. This means a failure to consider the different contexts in which the same word of a language can be used. For example, ‘arms’ can mean the human body part or refer to ammunition. While a human translator would be quick to correlate the word to the context it is placed in, a machine may only give you an awkward translation.

Also, a piece of content may have different tones—formal or casual, persuasive, or humorous. Machine translations often miss these nuances and thus the content fails to engage with the target audience.

Human Translation Is Up to Date

Local translators are aware of current catchphrases in the culture and society, which may not have had time to have been assimilated into the machine database. Today, the ability to tap into trends and buzzwords prevalent in social media is essential for businesses who want to appeal to their target customers and increase sales.

Machine and Human Translation: Conclusion

Machine translation inevitably requires a final review. An AI-translated piece must be proofread for potential errors. Businesses simply cannot afford to harm customer relations with grammatically incorrect and culturally disconnected content. You can’t fully tap into localization if the human connection is ignored.

Why Localize?

When you choose Localize as you translation management software (TMS), machine translations are fast and free. Most translation platforms charge extra for machine translations. But not Localize! Machine translations are included at no charge with every plan. We offer integrations with Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, and Watson translation services to get your localization project up and running quickly. Learn more.