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Exploring the Differences Between Human Translation and Machine Translation

The technological advances that have occurred over the course of the last few decades have made it possible to optimize and streamline the work of human translators. One of these advances is machine translation (MT).

How accurate can MT be? Is it better to contact a human translator? A hybrid translation process may be ideal for you. It is important to be familiar with the differences between human translation and machine translation, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.


Human translation vs. machine translation: which is better?

Machine translation, in its simplest sense, is the transformation of text from a source language into a target language using a machine. When this system is based on AI algorithms, it is called neural machine translation (NMT).

On the other hand, human translation is still superior in quality. Translation performed directly by a professional translator is more than replacing words within a text with equivalent words in another language; it takes into account the particularities, tone and sensitivities of each culture, language and context.

However, there is no doubt that professional translation can lean on machine translation to facilitate the task. Thus, by means of a hybrid process, it is possible to combine human experience and interpretation with the simplification and high processing capacity of MT. 

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But hybrid methods aside, individually, which is better? What are the differences between human translation and machine translation?


The advantages and disadvantages of human translation

Among the main advantages and disadvantages of human translation, we can identify the following:

  • Advantages:

    • Superior quality and accuracy. A good human translation is fluent and natural, because only a human translator knows the ins and outs of their language, idiomatic expressions, slang, etc. 

    • Sensitivity to different cultural values. The values of each culture are related to language. Human translators know the sensitivities associated with their languages' cultures and are trained to handle them correctly.

    • Capturing the connotations of the content. This is another major difference between human translation and machine translation. A professional translator has extensive knowledge of their working languages, which allows them to adjust the content according to the target audience.

Article of interest:

When to review a translation? The importance of human translation


  • Disadvantages:

    • The cost is higher.

    • It requires more time.

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Human-in-the-loop (HITL); making the most of human and machine intelligence


The advantages, disadvantages and challenges of machine translation

To help you better visualize the differences between machine translation and human translation, here are the advantages, disadvantages and challenges of machine translation:

  • Advantages

    • High speed. Machine translation executes the task faster than professional human translators.

    • Consistency in wording and style. It can even be more consistent than human translators, however, machine translation does not capture cultural nuances and cannot take context into account.

    • Adaptable, easy to develop and customizable. When artificial intelligence is used, machine translation offers a wide variety of options.

    • Cost-effective. It is an attractive solution for processing large quantities of documents. This is one of the main differences in the comparison between machine translation and human translation.

Article of interest: AI Translation: The Future of Language Learning


  • The disadvantages and challenges of machine translation

    • Less accurate than human translators. The output may contain grammatical errors or poor choice of words. The simple solution to this problem is using a hybrid system.

    • Inability to grasp and understand local jargon or consider the context.

    • Difficulty in conveying marketing messages or content

In addition to the differences between human translation and machine translation, you should know how technology has evolved to increase MT quality.

Article of interest:

How Can AI Document Translation Help You?


Advances in machine learning and artificial intelligence that improve translation quality

The quality of machine translation has dramatically improved due to the advances in artificial intelligence and its subfields, such as machine learning. MT currently employs artificial neural networks that emulate the functioning and interconnections made by human neurons during a thought process. 


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Techniques for measuring machine translation quality


Like the human brain, neural networks have the ability to associate the elements of the input language with the stored information, and thus generate the translation.

This way of associating information and using it to continuously train the engines allows machine translation to become more and more efficient and accurate.

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The evolution and trends in machine translation

Machine translation has gone through a long evolution process:

  • Rule-based machine translation requires a large investment of resources. In addition, it needs grammar rules, transfer rules and bilingual dictionaries. Linguistic structures not present in these elements cannot be translated.

  • Statistical machine translation is an alternative to rule-based machine translation. You only need data to train it. It performs probabilistic calculations that a given sentence or word in the target language is the correct one.

In 2014, machine translation based on neural networks began to be put into practice. Although it also requires a large amount of data for training, this system that outperforms statistical translation systems. 

It has such great potential that not only text is being incorporated into its learning process, but also multimedia files and image formats. 


Why Pangeanic is your best partner in both human and machine translation

At Pangeanic, we combine human ingenuity with the power of artificial intelligence. By doing so, we are able to deliver a translation service tailored to your requirements. 

We have an extensive network of professional translation experts: over 25,000 native specialists with more than 20 years of experience in the translation industry.

In addition, we combine this human translation capability with machine translation that uses neural engines, allowing translation work to be accelerated, while preserving the human quality and accuracy. 

Tell us what you need. At Pangeanic, we adapt everything to the language and specialization requirements of your business. 

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