top of page

Machine translation VS human translation



Using an automatic translator like Google Translate is often very alluring to most users. After all, it does help a lot when you’re in a pinch and when you do not feel like fishing for your dictionary.


However, it also has a lot of downsides. For instance, anyone has seen in the past content poorly translated that led to either funny mistakes or disasters.


When that happens or, hopefully, before this happens, people turn to professional human translators who offer their own range of advantages and disadvantages.


Let us take a look at the pros and cons of each system and evaluate which situation calls for one or the other so you never have to hesitate between the two again.



Machine translation ADVANTAGES


  • Large quantity of tools available (Google Translate, Reverso, Amazon Translate, etc.).

  • Quick results. Get your paragraphs translated in a few seconds.

  • Variety of languages on easy access.  You can switch from French to English, to Chinese, to Spanish, etc.. using the very same tool.


Machine translation DOWNSIDES


  • The level of accuracy cannot be guaranteed and is most often low.

  • Inconsistency. From the language that was the most developed by the programmers to another language that didn’t have as much human input, the consistency of the accuracy can change drastically between languages.

  • Machine translators are unable to comprehend and translate context from your content.

  • Sometimes, a machine translator may simply not be able to translate your content at all.

  • Translation mistakes can have very bad and costly consequences on the user, especially on commercial content.


Professional human translator ADVANTAGES


  • Accuracy is guaranteed.

  • Human translators are able to decipher all the context and nuances of your content and convey them into their translation.

  • Wordplays and expressions that can’t be translated literally will be adapted to their closest equivalent to keep the content as close as possible to the original style and meaning.

  • Human translators are able to and will go over their work, again and again, to spot and fix any mistake.

  • You can communicate your intentions with your human translators and he or she will be able to customize and tailor his translation to your needs.


Professional human translator DOWNSIDES


  • Hiring a professional translator is more costly.

  • Making changes to the content and getting the finished product is slightly longer than working directly into a machine.

  • Language limitation. A single translator can only master so many languages. If you need different languages you must then find another translator unless you are working with an agency that provides multiple languages by employing many translators.


WHEN to use machine translation VS human translation



Machine translation


  • You only need to translate a few words or sentences.

  • Your content doesn’t need to be translated with absolute precision, only the general meaning is important.

  • Your content is NOT intended for large spread use (like a team communications).


Human translation

  • You need to translate a significant quantity of text and need the sentences to be consistent in their translation style.

  • You need an accurate transposition of the meaning and style of the content.

  • Your content is intended to be seen (such as product labelling, important presentations, etc.)

  • Your content requires a maximum quality level (Ex : medical instructions, legal documents, etc.)



Weighing in the potential cost and consequences of a translation mistake is important in choosing to use either method.


A small mistake in the word choice for a memo to your employees is not too bad whereas a mistake in health and safety instructions can lead to the loss of lives.


We should also note that, while hiring a human translator does cost more than using a machine, it helps the communications economic sector to prosper.


We hope this article successfully helped you grasp the differences and best uses of each method of translation. Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.




Au Gré Des Mots



Click the button below for a quote on our translation services.

human COMPRESSEE.png
computer COMPRESSEE.png
bottom of page