December 16, 2019

There are two main options when you want to translate a letter, article, book or other document from one language to another. You can use automatic computer software or work with a human translator. What are the pros and cons?


Computer-based translation is quick and costs very little. Its accuracy has gradually improved over the years. Nonetheless, well-qualified human translators still perform this service with greater accuracy. There are several reasons why.

The same word or sentence can mean different things in different situations. Computer-based (Machine Translation) translation will often get the word arrangement incorrect creating an awkward reading style that doesn’t sound fluent. People understand context with much more success than computer software. They often have larger vocabularies as well. Humans also recognize things like humor, sarcasm and metaphors.


People are better at modifying translations to suit specific countries or regions. For example, Australians use somewhat different spelling and slang than Americans. A human can also customize translations to fit in a certain number of pages, words or characters.


Even if a computer’s output doesn’t contain any errors, it may have awkward or dull phrasing. A translator with decent writing skills can make the content more engaging and interesting while ensuring that the target audience can comprehend it.


Human service providers will (at at least should depending on your provider) take some responsibility for the quality of their work and will guarantee accuracy versus no guarantee with machine translation. They understand that mistakes can result in negative consequences. On the other hand, a computer isn’t held accountable for errors and doesn’t treat important documents any differently than other texts.

This is important because translation mistakes can have a lasting impact. A business agreement might become unenforceable, someone could damage a machine by operating it incorrectly or an expensive advertisement may be rendered incomprehensible.

The bottom line is that human translation demands more time and money, but it produces far better results. And for heavens sake, don’t use Google translate to be your vetting tool against a full-human translated document – you’ll only embarrass yourself.

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