Human or machine? There’s a translation solution for everyone

It’s hardly news that today texts are translated not only by people but by machines too. Are those machine translations good for anything?

And if so, when and how should you use them? Here’s a pocket guide.

Human translation

If your text is complex and requires a deep understanding of culture, context, idioms and nuances, go with human translators.

Sensitive or legal content is in safe hands with human translators as they can ensure confidentiality (the same can only be said of machine translation if it can be performed in a closed system) and accuracy while also adhering to legal requirements.

Translating marketing materials, advertisements, slogans or creative content requires a certain degree of creativity and cultural adaptation. Human translators living in their respective countries can better capture the intended message, tone and impact.

For texts requiring specialised knowledge in technical fields like medicine, engineering or chemicals, human translators with subject matter expertise are essential. Machine translation may produce inaccurate or misleading translations due to a lack of domain-specific knowledge.

Human translators provide quality assurance by proofreading, editing and ensuring consistency of the translation. A text translated by a human translator is usually checked by another native-speaking translator. That four-eyes principle adds an extra level of scrutiny.

Unlike machines, people excel in understanding the context of the document. Human translators take factors like the target audience, purpose and cultural appropriateness into consideration and adapt the translation accordingly.

Machine translation

If the primary goal is to get a general sense of the content, especially for personal use or for grasping the main points of a document, machine translation can be sufficient.

Informal texts like emails, chat conversations or social media posts often contain abbreviations, slang or colloquial language. Machine translation can handle such content relatively well – though the resulting texts are not ready for publication without further editing by a native speaker.

High volume and tight deadlines call for machines. For large volumes of text needing to be translated quickly, machine translation can be used to provide a draft translation. Human translators can then review and polish the output, speeding up the overall translation process. The quality of a machine translation with post-editing is not equal to a human translation, but it’s a quicker solution and fits a smaller budget better.

Best of both worlds

Whenever the topic and type of document allow, the best approach is to combine the strengths of human translation with the speed and efficiency of machine translation.

By partnering with a professional translation agency, you can achieve a balance that maximises the accuracy, productivity and cost-effectiveness of the translation process.

If you have a translatable document, please feel free to reach out and we’ll be glad to advise on the most suitable service.

Contact us at for a quote.

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