Human or Machine Translation. Which is better?

The debate between these two is never ending. The world is fast changing and technology is improving. Do you ever wonder which is a better way to translate any document?

Machine (or automatic) translation services will play a more important role in any translation project. Google translate has already achieved search queries in multiple languages and translated sentences with great accuracy. However, there are still imperfections in machine translation. The level of accuracy can be very low. Accuracy may not be consistent across different languages. Moreover, google translate or any form of machine translation tools, cannot translate context. Once mistakes are made, the cost incurred can be quite high. For example, if we rely solely on automatic translation for medical equipment, legal documents and user manuals, any mistakes made can cost lives or great financial losses as well as substantial damage to reputation. Automatic translation provides a literal, word-for-word translation, which can lead to unsatisfactory results. The translation may not sound natural, has lots of grammatical errors and may not be well-structured enough to maintain original meaning.

In conclusion, machine translation should only be used for small projects whereby basic understanding suffice. I think it is most suitable for postcard messages and personal letters which requires quick turnaround time.

Why human translation is preferred?

Translators are considered experts in their own field because of the way they hone a source text to fit the target audience.  They can be compared to editors who constantly shape, mold and perfect a written piece for better communication. They have more in-depth knowledge of the terminology and can structure the translation in a way that flows naturally and make it meaningful for readers.

In general, a higher standard of accuracy is achieved even though a longer turnaround time is required and at a higher cost. Translators will always ensure any translation job is done with 99.9% accuracy. Translators can interpret context and capture the meaning, rather than simply translating words. Their works will be proofread and reviewed to ensure a quality process. They can deal with content where automatic translation is not possible and find the most suitable expression of the same in another language. Sometimes, when it comes to complex correspondences such as legal documents, user manuals and medical guidelines where accuracy is of utmost important, it is advisable to engage a translator or a translation company.

Human translation may seem more expensive than automatic translation, but the benefits of a good translation and the hidden costs of a bad translation (higher level of returns, bad reputation, dissatisfied customers), make it the better choice in the long rub.

In today’s fast-paced environment, time is a crucial factor. Hence, people may be tempted to use machine translation due to its faster turnaround time. In future, I would think that the trend is the widespread use of human translation with the aid of technology as it would significantly reduce turnaround time. Hence, quality translation can be achieved within the shortest turnaround time.