Translation: Can We Trust The Machine?

With the development of technology and the development in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), the development of machine translation (MT) cannot be ignored. User input and neural engines have improved machine translation, even if at a slow pace, it hasn’t yet reached the human language level. But with proper care and supervision, it may get there someday.

It’s interesting to hear in the translation industry that “machine translation will make your job old fashioned.” This may be true, but very far in the future. So far, the quality of machine translation cannot match the quality of a good human translator. In this article, we’ll look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of machine translation, as well as some of the possible alternatives that could be better options.

*Machine translation will be referred to as MT further on.


  • Gist

MT helps you understand the essence of a file and deepens your overall comprehension of the file. For native speakers, it will sound unnatural, but the meaning can be extracted. It may look old and disjointed, perhaps there is a term mismatch or a mistranslation of some terms in a particular context, but it will fairly be understandable.

  • The Application Of The Document

This is a good example of MT that is used often. A company might receive quite large documents in a language they do not understand. They don’t have the budget to translate it using a human translator and want to know if the document is applicable to the business. A good example is when an Arabic company receives a business proposal in Japanese. They have no idea what’s being said, but they need to know if they shall respond to the proposal. In this case, the MT card is a good starting point to test the commercial applicability of the proposal. If so, they can identify important sections and perform human translation of that content.

  • Price

MT is the most economical solution on the market. It can be very cheap or even free. Simply put, this is the cheapest option on the market so far.

  • Speed

MT can happen instantly. It can be recovered very quickly and requires little to no quality assurance. Of course, this process refers to pure MT without any editing permissions.


  • Price

As mentioned above, cost can be an advantage, but it can also be a negative factor. There should be reasonable expectations about the quality of free/cheap options. There are not many free and high-quality services. Let’s put it this way for simpler understanding; there are luxury cars (freelance translators and editors), small cars (translators only), and go-karts (MT). Every car is a wagon/engine, but not everyone gets the same car. In terms of the service level of a translation, there are reasons to believe that luxury cars are better than go-karts.

  • Speed

If something happens very quickly, there’s usually a reason to expect it to be of a poor quality. There are exceptions, of course, but it goes without saying that quality work requires more time, effort and attention.

  • Context
  • Client Content Results

It is recommended that you do not use MT for anything related to your customers.  Some business owners save some money by using MT early in their projects. They use MT to package products sold by major retailers. And negative feedback is often the case, because the quality of the translation is poor, and many clients complain. As a result, the business owner will have to recall thousands worth of merchandise to save the business. The product then has to be retranslated and repackaged by people. The cost of the correct preliminary translation of the content is insignificant compared to the price of the withdrawn products.

  • Language Subjectivity

Another area that MT struggles with is a subjective language. There are many things that are difficult to translate, such as idioms, puns and expressions that do not have a direct equivalent. Running this type of content on an MT engine gives ridiculous results.

What are your Alternatives?

  • Post-editing

Instead of pure MT, linguists & editors can also edit the translation results. However, there are some things to keep in mind. Some linguists and translators refuse to edit machine translations just because they are of poor quality. If they are editing machine translations, they can always get exhausted and the results are “good enough” rather than good. But it’s still a use-able option in case of short documents.

  • Translator Only

In the opinion of experts, this approach is the best option. It is offered at about the same price as post-editing MT, and the translators translate with freedom and as they please, and it’s of a higher quality than post-editing MT. This approach is based on professional translators and is the best alternative to MT.

MT might be a good option. However, be aware of the price you pay and have reasonable expectations of quality for the price. When you’re shopping, don’t forget to know what you’re paying for and what level of service you’re getting.



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