The Difference Between Machine Translation And Human Translators

Apr 19, 2018

Content human vs machine translation

When someone begins looking for a translation service, one of the things they must consider is whether or not they need a human translator. What they may not know is all of the differences between machine translation and human translation, and how those differences can influence their choice.

Machine Translation Vs Human Translation: Calculating Costs

At face value, human translation is more expensive than machine translation. In fact, when people use online translators such as Google translate, they can often get their translations for free. However, price doesn’t always reflect value. There are simply skills that human translators have and jobs that they can complete successfully that machines cannot. Keep reading to learn some of those. In the meantime, don’t assume that machine translation is all bad. There are times when it provides people with exactly what they need.

Human Translators Understand Language Nuances And Context

There are simply things that machine translators cannot understand and translate accurately. This includes humor, sarcasm, double entendres, many inclusionary terms, idiomatic speech, pidgin languages or dialects, etc. They also cannot understand the meaning behind inside jokes or anecdotes. Most don’t understand industry-specific jargon either.

In addition to this, machine translators cannot determine meaning of written or spoken word based upon context. It takes a human translator or localization specialist to do these things.

Machine Translators Can Handle Significant Volume

When considering the superiority of machine translators such as Google translate vs. human translation, there is one area where machine translation does come out ahead. A machine can handles huge volumes of documents, much more than a person, or even a team of people could. Sometimes this is just what is needed. For example, if a company takes over a company, they may need all of that companies documents translated into a different language or vice versa. Depending on the size of the business, that could be thousands and thousands of pages. Employee records, financial records, tax documents, etc. all needing to be translated.

In these cases, an organization might opt to segregate the document types that require the most accuracy and attention and send those to a professional translator. In the meantime, they can send the remaining documents to be machine translated. Further accuracy can be guaranteed by conducting spot checks.

It’s Easier to Find Industry-Specific Expertise With Human Translators

Those working on machine translation technology should be proud. They can accomplish quite a bit. They work well for casual, informative use. They also handle large volume translations beautifully. However, there really aren’t machine translators that also have industry-specific expertise.

Businesses and individuals often need translators who understand law, engineering, gaming, local cultures, medicine and healthcare, business, and a variety of other topics. In fact, this knowledge needs to be in depth enough that the translations provided qualify for certification.


Don’t count out machine translation. Use it for ‘on the fly needs’. However, the most accurate translations still come from professionally trained humans.