Human vs Software in the Battle of Translation Services

Translation software vs human transatlion

Professional Translation Services

Translation Services: Human vs Software

Posted By Cathy Bennett

Computers and technology have been designed to help us speed up tasks and processes, save us time and make our lives easier. But there are significant differences between what computers/ technology can do in comparison to humans.

When looking for translation services you will see many translation software adverts all highlighting that they can translate many words quickly, can make grammatical changes as the basic rules of translation and grammar are embedded in its programming. You might think good, problem solved, it’s easy to install and cheaper than paying a human to do it, however, translation software lacks one key ingredient to making it the next best thing. It cannot express the meaning of a sentence, because machines can’t understand context, they run on a strict set of defined rules.

In this article, we will explore the pros and cons of software translation vs human.

The advantages of machine translation:

  • Price – Many translation tools are available free of charge such as; Google Translate and Skype Translator
  • Fast – Get your translation as quickly as you can type (or copy and paste) your document into a translation tool. It can take minutes rather than hours or days.                                                                  
  • Multiple Languages – You can translate to more than one language using one tool

 The disadvantages of machine translation:

  • Quality and Accuracy – Generally the level of accuracy of these online tools is very low and often inconsistent across different languages. There is also no quality control process, so unless you have a reader of that language you won’t know if there are any mistakes until you publish the document
  • Context – As I have said previously translation software cannot translate context                                            
  • It can be dangerous – There are just some things that you would not want to be translated by software without being checked by a human. For example: Translating instructions for medical equipment and aviation manuals would require 100% accuracy as mistakes could cost lives!

The advantages of human translation

  • Context – Humans can interpret context, humour, and irony, capturing the same meaning, rather than simply translating words
  • Quality Control – Human translators will review their work, proof-read for accuracy and if you use a professional translation service there is likely to be a quality control process in place
  • Understanding – Humans can understand the idiosyncratic differences between languages, the use of puns and slang, whereas machines cannot
  • Alternative Language – Sometimes the literal translation isn’t possible, a machine would not be able to find a suitable alternative

 The disadvantages of human translation

  • Cost – Unlike the free software there is a cost associated with translating documents.
  • Slow – The turnaround time for translation is longer, but this is because there are often quality control processes in place  

Of course, there is always a time and a place for both human translation and translation software for example:                                    

When to use software translation:

  • Bulk translate large documents ready for a human translator to improve upon
  • You are translating for internal use and 100% accuracy is not required

When to use human translation:

  • When accuracy is important
  • If your document is to be read by a consumer audience
  • When you have a duty of care to your reader e.g. medical manuals
  • When translating marketing material and context is important

How to choose between human translation and software translation?

Ask yourself these simple questions:

  1. Do you care about how my content reads, does it flow well, did you want to use humour or do you want to get the basics of the documents content across as quickly as possible ?
  2. Are you precious about accuracy or can youI live with a few errors?
  3. Does this translated content reflect my company’s brand or messaging?

 We hope that this article gives you some something to consider when it comes to translation services and software.

 For more information about the Translation services offered by Fingertips Typing Services click here

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