machine translation

The science and technology of machine translation has come a long way since it first made it’s debut in 1954 during the Georgetown Experiment, where there were sixty Russian sentences successfully translated into English solely through a machine translation device. Nowadays a person can point their smartphone at a sign in downtown Japan and a machine translation app will convert the text displayed on the sign into a word for word equivalent in English or the language of your choosing. This technology can change the way we travel! Imagine not having to walk around with your head in a map or having to stop and fumble through asking for directions from the locals numerous times when you are traveling in a foreign country. You can rely on yourself and your translation app, as long as you have a solid internet connection. With such advanced technology being created and the rapid development of artificial intelligence, the question arises, can machine translation actually develop enough to replace human translators?

The argument of machine translation vs. human translation has been around for a long time, however, as technology progresses each year so does the quality of translations produced by machine translation software. There has been a substantial amount of scrutiny over machine translation due to the inaccuracy that it sometimes produces. A good translation can be judged based on how well it flows and if it sounds natural in the target language. If a translation has been done very well the reader will never know that the text had been translated in the first place. There are positive as well as negative traits to both human translation and machine translation, but when stacked up against each other, one significantly outshines the other. Businesses, facilities and organizations that utilize translation services are fully aware that professional translation services are not to be underestimated and that is why human translators have not been traded in for their shiny new counterpart, the machine translator.  

Machine Translation:

Machine translations are a great asset when you need a piece of text that is not critical, translated cheaply and with a fast turn around time. Machine translation is most appropriate for people when they are traveling and need to learn how to say hello, excuse me, or perhaps ask a few simple questions. The biggest complaint regarding machine translation is the fact that often times it produces less than stellar results. More often than not you receive an inaccurate, sometimes incomprehensible and possibly dangerous translation when using an app that utilizes translation software. Machine translations tend to exhibit poor grammar and word choices which can convolute the intended meaning. The biggest downfall despite the inaccuracy is that machine translation can only translate word for word; there is no regard for feelings, displays of emotion, context, or links that add underlying meaning and substance to text. Machine translation lacks self awareness and insight, therefore the translations will never be as accurate as that of human translations.

Advantages of Machine Translation:

  • Most translation apps are free and available for anyone to use.
  • There are a variety of languages to choose from when using translation apps.
  • Machine translation has a very quick turnaround time, generally immediate.
  • The technology that is used to run translation software is constantly improving and producing better results.

Disadvantages of Machine Translation:

  • Machine translation displays a very low rating in accuracy of the text that it translates.
  • Machine translation can not translate feelings, emotions, language nuances, idioms or jokes.
  • Translation mistakes caused by machine translators can be costly and even dangerous.

Human Translation:

Human translators are best at shaping and molding a piece of text into it’s most natural converted form while staying true to the author’s intended meaning. This task takes a lot of skill, training, knowledge and constant learning to be able to complete. Not only does the translator have to be proficient in both languages but they also need to have a cultural and historical understanding of both languages in order to be able to produce compelling and accurate translations. Machine translation simply cannot grasp the nuances of language which are so important to understanding an intended meaning and this is the main reason why machine transition will never replace human translation.

Advantages of Human Translation:

  • Accuracy and ensuring a complete understanding is the first priority of a human translator.
  • Human translators are able to grasp jokes, puns, metaphors, slogans, idioms, historical or cultural references and underlying meanings within their translations.
  • Human translations go through rigorous proofreading and editing reviews in order to ensure accuracy in the highest form before being delivered as a finished product.
  • Human translators are able to find the most appropriate and accurate translation of text when there is not a literal word for word translation from one language into another.
  • There is more logic and organization of text displayed when using a human translator.

Disadvantages of Human Translation:

  • It takes a human translator time to produce a translation, so the turnaround time is not immediate.
  • Translation work is not free, you have to pay for professional translation services.

What Will the Future Hold?

Artificial intelligence based translating technology is getting better day by day, however it has a long way to go in order to be compared to the accuracy that human translation provides. It is likely that in the future human translators will work alongside machine translators and use the software produced translation as an aid or a guide to use, in order to produce their own translations. Will we see the day where man and machine work side by side for the greater good in the world of translation? Possibly, however, it’s a stretch to say that machine translation is even comparable to human translation… for now.

Niki’s Int’l Ltd. is a WBENC-Certified Women Business Enterprise with 20 years of language service experience. A global network of highly skilled interpreters and translators are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for on-site, telephonic and video remote interpretation services. Our linguists are available in over 350 languages and dialects, and our network includes certified interpreters and translators. Our work is guaranteed with a $1 Million Errors & Omissions policy, so that you can be confident that your project will be completed with the highest level of quality and professionalism within the field. For more information contact us at 1-877-567-8449 or visit our website at

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