Why should I choose human translation?

8th September 2017

There are hundreds of languages spoken in the world today, meaning there is a need for translation for both businesses and individuals. The advancements in technology over the past few years mean that there are different options available to get your translation completed, including machine translation. Although machine translation isn’t personal and can’t be localised, the quality of translation it offers is constantly improving thanks to improvements in artificial intelligence. If machines can learn how to recognise a human’s face, they can also learn our language, right?

The advantages of machine translation

  •  Many free tools are readily available (Google Translate, Skype Translator, etc.)
  • Quick turnaround time
  • You can translate between multiple languages using one tool (Google Translate now supports 30 languages)
  • Translation technology is constantly improving

The disadvantages of machine translation

  • Level of accuracy in meaning can be very low
  • Accuracy is also very inconsistent across different languages
  • Machines can’t translate context
  • Mistakes are sometimes costly (these mistakes can cost you your reputation, clients and a lot of money)
  • Quite often machine translation simply doesn’t work (the classic Chinese menu translation is a perfect example)

What are the advantages of human translation?

1. High accuracy and creativity

When translating a whole document, where the meaning needs to be completely understood, machine translation is unlikely to be up to scratch. Translating web content, marketing copy and legal documents is not about a simple word-for-word translation. In order to convey a brand’s identity and the appropriate message, a human needs to interpret what is being said – beyond the actual words – and then find the right way to say it in the target language. Machine translation also lacks creativity and uniqueness. What’s unique about programmed translations?

2. Meaningful context

Humans can interpret context and capture the same meaning, rather than simply translating words. We can spot pieces of content where literal translation isn’t possible and find the most suitable alternative.

3. Localised content

Humans can interpret the creative use of language, e.g. puns, metaphors, slogans, etc. While machine translators can translate a lot quicker, the machine doesn’t acknowledge nor translate idioms, slang or terms that aren’t pre-programmed within the machine’s memory. We know the importance of localised content for businesses trying to reach customers overseas. Poorly translated content just won’t work. Only humans will have the ability to add cultural elements to translation.

The disadvantages of human translation include higher cost and longer turnaround time, but does one day really make a difference when your reputation is on the line?

When should I use machine and human translation?

Our advice would be to use human translation when accuracy of meaning is imperative, when your content is aimed at clients, or other businesses and when you have a duty of care (e.g. legal documents, medical guidelines, installation guidelines).

Use a machine translator when you have a large bulk of repetitive content to translate and getting just a rough idea of meaning is good enough, when you are having a relaxed chat with a friend or for translating a few sentences for internal use within a company, provided no real accuracy is required.

Foreign Tongues has been providing professional translation services and advice to businesses for more than twenty years. Our experienced project managers and linguists will help you and your company overcome the language barriers to international markets.

Contact us now for The 20 Minute Quote and one of our project managers will help guide you through the planning of your next international project.

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