Home Pros and cons of human translation

Pros and cons of human translation

essay laptop
(© makistock – stock.adobe.com)

We might need a translation to be made for many reasons at some point in our lives. That could be a document that we need for our work or a document that would allow us to travel to another country. Whatever it is, there are only two different ways, in which we can satisfy that need. Those are machine translation and human translation. While there are lots of articles attempting to compare the two, most of them, in fact, try to do the impossible as machine and human translation are beyond comparison. They use absolutely different principles, and modern technology is not advanced enough yet to reach the human level yet. Still, what could be the odds of addressing the human professional translator? Are they completely compensated by all the benefits?

Man and the machine

On the internet, you can always find tons of information outlining the reasons why you shouldn’t use machine translation and why human translators are better. Some of the most common arguments are that the machines are not advanced enough, so they will provide a rather mediocre to completely poor result with simplistic word choices, awkward sentence structures, and hilarious idiom translations. At the same time, human translation has major benefits.

Pros of human translation

  • Flexible nature of the human brain. While computers “think” in algorithms only, humans can roam freely in their thoughts and processes, thus, producing more precise and natural-looking translations.
  • If there are the parts human minds cannot translate, they will instantly think of alternatives, while computers will simply refer to whatever they have in their program, which often leads to complete nonsense in the final result.
  • Translations for improved SEO. A human translator can be specifically tasked to translate a certain text for search engine optimization and succeed with the task perfectly. Computers, however, will concentrate on either translation or SEO but not both.
  • Cultural awareness. Human cultures are, perhaps, impossible to program sufficiently yet, so when it comes to localization or culturally sensitive translation, there’s no better option than addressing a human specialist.

Indeed, the benefits are many and all of them are huge. However, whether to address trusted translation companies with human translators or not can also depend on the type of work you need to be done. If you just need to translate a letter to your international friend, machine translation will work just as great. For more serious correspondence or document translation, human specialists are, of course, recommended more insistently. Still, even there, you’re completely insured from certain issues.

Cons of human translation

  • Human error factor. While humans are not programmed like computers, they still make mistakes. Even a slight typo can make a huge mess. And some translators can even misunderstand the context of your work, thus, making an even larger mess. So, to avoid any issues of human nature, make sure to instruct your specialist as clearly as possible.
  • Unwillingness to cooperate. Some people are insistent, but some are plain stubborn. Of course, you won’t hire perfect specialists all the time, and sooner or later you’ll stumble upon the one that will be extremely hard to work with. Such a person will never admit their mistake and will do anything to avoid revising the completed work.
  • Deadline factor. Again, most specialists are trained to follow their deadlines and manage their time properly. But there will always be a chance for you to face either a human factor when your translator falls ill or has a power outage or plain irresponsibility when the specialist is simply unable to manage their time.
  • Cost factor. Perhaps, the most important factor of all, as well as the one that gets mentioned from time to time even when the authors praise human translation. A great translation will cost quite a lot of money, especially when it has to be done fast. Translators are also humans who need to eat, a place to live and grow personally and professionally, all of which, are compensated by investment.

On top of all of that, it is worth mentioning that lots of professional translators use different kinds of translation software to make their working processes more efficient. Some translators may utilize machine translation to process the whole text and then just proofread and edit it, while the result will be the same if they translated everything manually. So, essentially, there’s no such thing as pure human or machine translation. Computers became so integral in our lives that we sometimes just don’t see the boundary between human work and collaboration with a machine.

Not that perfect but still worth it

Yes, human translators are just as imperfect as computers are, but their work is more worth the final result exactly due to the flexibility of the human mind as well as an ability to understand complex contexts and human cultures. While computers seem to fall very short after us in the 21st century, there’s still a lot of them to catch up, so the need for human translators will not decline in the years to come. Still, we need to understand that while computers cannot do our job completely, they help us a lot with a lot of tasks, including translation.

Story by Michael Carr. Carr, a successful author, blogger, and educator, believes that it’s impossible to gain something without sharing something first. That’s why he constantly travels around the world in search of new experiences and then shares them with his readers. With every new article or lecture, Michael feels his personal and professional growth.



Have a guest column, letter to the editor, story idea or a news tip? Email editor Chris Graham at [email protected]. Subscribe to AFP podcasts on Apple PodcastsSpotifyPandora and YouTube.