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When Machine Translation Works and When it Doesn’t

Image Credit: gesrey via FreePik

In a highly automated world, machine translation is a common way to translate text from one language to another. You can see it in action anytime you visit a website in a foreign language and your browser offers to translate the page. If you click yes, your browser spits out a rough translation in the time it takes you to blink.

This process relies on powerful algorithms rather than people to work, and its major advantage is the speed at which these programs perform. However, machine translation lacks the subtly of a human translator. This means it can make unusual choices that don’t reflect the source material’s true meaning.

How will you know whether machined-based services are good enough for your needs or when you need a specialist on the job? Keep scrolling to learn when machine translation works—and when it doesn’t.


3 Times Machine Translation Services Might Fit Your Needs

Many businesses turn to automated options in the following three scenarios:

1. When Precision Isn’t Necessary

Without human intervention to catch errors, machine-based services are best used in projects that aren’t client-facing. Since you won’t be publishing this work, you can afford to have lingering errors. Machines might also be an option when you only need the general idea behind a document rather than a word-for-word translation.

2. When You Have a Lot of Content

If your project involves an incredible amount of content due with a quick turnaround, you might use an automated service. The technology powering their algorithms will always work faster than a human.

3. If Your Budget Is Limited

Another reason why some individuals and businesses opt for machine-based services is because of budgetary concerns. Due to its speed and margin for error, an automated service is usually less expensive than human alternatives.

4 Times a Real Person Might Be the Better Option for Your Translation

If machine-based services don’t sound like the right fit, here are four scenarios when an experienced person might work better.

1. When You Want the Best of Both Worlds

If you want a fast turnaround for a large volume of documents, but you don’t want any glaring errors that can result from automation, a global agency like LingArch provides post-editing options. The language translation solutions from LingArch combine the convenience and speed of machine algorithms with the experience and diligence of a human. This means there will always be someone proofreading to correct errors and adjust for tone and style. 

2. If You Work in a Niche Industry

Complex and specialized industries such as the legal, financial, and medical fields need the nuance only a human translator can provide. Experienced professionals are well-versed in your industry’s unique lexicon and idiosyncrasies. They will make sure there are no inaccuracies in interpretation.


3. When You Need Verbatim Transcription

Even the best machine translations struggle to keep up with the spoken word. When you need a verbatim record of a conversation—that is, a word-for-word transcript of speech—it’s a task better suited for a human. An experienced transcription specialist can account for accents, speech fillers, and grammatical errors committed by the speaker.

4. When the Message Has a Wide Audience

When a translation requires distribution to an external audience, you need the diligence of a human proof. Suppose you want to launch your website in different languages for global audience. A person will ensure every language perfectly conveys the right message to the right audience. 


When You Need a Perfect Translation You Need a Human Being

Algorithms can crunch numbers and translate text faster than a human can. But when you need an accurate letter-perfect translation scrutinized for tone and industry-specific jargon, a person will always beat out the machines.

Weigh the pros and cons carefully before you decide, remembering a reputable translation agency can offer post-editing services when you need both speed and nuance.