Machine Translation vs Human Translation

Machine Translation vs Human Translation

Machine Translation vs Human Translation

Being a company that only works with human translators, Active Languages will never recommend you use a machine to translate your documents. That being said, we have to recognise that AI is part of our industry and it does have its advantages.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using machine translation for your business:


– Speed: Free to use services such as DeepL and Google Translate provide instant results. Handy when you have an email from a foreign client that you need to get an overview of before you reply with a human translation.

– Cost: Machine translation is free! All you do is type the word or sentence into whatever service you use and just like that, it turns into another language before your very eyes.

– User-friendly: You don’t need to coordinate with a translation agency or wait for quotes to be approved by your accounts department. There’s no need to be a computer whizz either as the machine translation services are so simple and easy to use.


Accuracy: We don’t need to tell you that although AI is improving the accuracy of its translations, the fact remains that all it takes is one misinterpreted word to make a simple sentence completely non-sensical. One example from the Active Languages archives is a translation for a French scientific text about DNA. The client had wanted to save time and money by doing a machine translation and have us proofread the text in English, but the machine translation had translated “hélice” as “propeller” instead of “helix”. Why? Possibly because propeller appears more often in translation searches for “hélice” so the machine simply went for the most common translation. Unfortunately, had our human translators not proofread it, a very important scientific text would have been published and left its readers wondering how helicopter propellers come into genetics…

– Localisation: There are lots of different variations of the same language. Just take Spanish: European, Mexican, Chilean, Argentinian and more. A machine translation service will just use the most common dialect or terms rather than localising the language to suit the audience. If you want to reach a new audience, make them feel valued and earn their loyalty then you have to “speak their language” and use their terms. At Active Languages, you tell us where your audience is based and we will make sure that we use the right translator, born and bred in the country you want to work in.

Fluency: We’ve all seen the translation fails online which albeit hilarious (just take the Chinese translation of KFC’s “finger lickin’ good”: “eat your fingers”) can put you off a company quite easily. Don’t they care enough about their audience to have a real person translate what they want to say to their customers?
Machine translation is “literal” so any turns of phrase or plays on words that you want to use to spice up your text will simply be lost and mistranslated. A human translator will localise your text, meaning they will take your words and rework them to be clear and appealing in your target language. A good translation shouldn’t read like a translation; it should read like a text written by a native speaker so the reader doesn’t even realise it was translated in the first place. Only an experienced human translator can do that.

– Tone: Just like plays on words, a machine translation can’t recognise the tone you want to give your text. Why waste your hard work drafting a light and playful marketing document for it to be lost on a machine translation? The human translators we work with at Active Languages will pick up the tone you want to give your text and replicate it in their own language, that way you don’t lose any of the zing of your original document.

Machine Translation vs Human Translation

Just one bad translation is enough to destroy a company’s reputation, is it worth the risk?
Contact Active Languages for a personal service, fast response, quick quote and timely turnaround.

Contact Active Languages today: Contact us


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