What is the difference between human and machine translation?

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There is a lot of talk about machine translation vs. human translation right now, but what exactly does that mean? What can you expect from each service? And how do you know which one would be best for your project? To answer these questions and more, let’s take a look at some of the key differences between human vs machine translations. 

As the name implies, human translation is done by people who speak multiple languages and have extensive experience translating documents into another language (usually their native language). Machine translation is done by computers that use algorithms to predict what words might fit into a given sentence or phrase in another language. Both types have their pros and cons but there are also some key differences between them that may be useful for your business depending on your needs.

Human translation

Human translation is a process done by humans, who are professionals in the field of translation. When you translate something into another language, it’s important that your document is accurate and clear. Human translators know how to translate documents for different purposes and audiences. They can also adapt their translation style to fit your needs.

Human translators are trained to translate and interpret documents accurately; they’ll take into account all aspects of communication such as word choice, grammar and punctuation rules when translating texts from one language into another one. Machine translations aren’t as sophisticated yet so they may not always be 100% accurate when compared with human translations.

Human translators understand and convey emotion, nuance and cultural context better than machines can. When you need to translate a document with culturally specific terminology, like medical terms or slang terms unique to a certain region, machine translations might not be able to give you an accurate result. It is the same for any marketing text as well as for more niche terminology.

human vs machine translation

Machine translation

Machine translation involves using a computer program to translate text from one language into another. This type of translation is not as accurate or reliable as human translation. It is also good to note that machine translation is not the same as automated translation, which uses computer programs to translate a single word or phrase. Automated translation is often used for online tools that help you translate web pages, emails and documents.

Machine translation is a useful tool for businesses that need to translate large amounts of text. It can be used to translate websites and other documents, but should not be used in situations where accuracy is important, such as technical documents or legal documents that require complete clarity and precision. Machine translation is often used when the amount of text to be translated is too large for human translators to handle in a short time frame as it can produce translations quickly. 


The main differences between human and machine translation


Human translation is more accurate, but slower than machine-assisted translations. Machines can translate faster because they don’t need to worry about context or nuance, so they’re more efficient at translating large amounts of text quickly. However, human translators are better for complex documents that require a lot of attention to detail, research on some specific terms or using a tone appropriate to the targeted audience—which means that if you don’t have time or money constraints, your best bet is going with a professional translator who specialises in the language and topic at hand.

  • More accurate 
  • Pay attention to nuance + context + tone + specific terminology
  • Professional and specialised translators
  • More expensive
  • Takes more time



Machine translations may be less expensive than their human counterparts, but the quality might not be as good (especially when it comes to technical jargon). Additionally, since there’s no way for computers to tell whether or not their work makes sense and accurately conveys meaning from one language into another (at least not yet), sometimes it’s hard to tell whether what you’ve received is actually accurate enough for your needs. This is where Machine Translation with Post-Editing (MTPE) is useful: it is the process of having a machine translation proofread and edited by human translators. 

  • More economical
  • Fast turnaround
  • Less accurate
  • May miss cultural context and nuance
  • Not recommended for technical, complicated language e.g. legal or medical documents



Machine and human translation offer different benefits, with the most obvious being that a machine can translate much faster than a person. However, they also have their drawbacks. For example, machines don’t always understand context or cultural nuances well enough to produce accurate translations consistently (yet!)—and humans make mistakes too! 

Ultimately, the best choice for your business depends on what is needed for each project. Don’t hesitate to contact us today to discuss your project and get a free, no obligation quote for your project. We are happy to advise you on what’s best for you.