Translation Services: Machine Vs. Human Translation

If you are in the market for a translation services company, there are basically two ways to go. You could either opt for what is known as “machine translation” (sometimes abbreviated as “MT”) or for human translation. Call me a conservative, but I can tell you right away that there is no contest here. Good old-fashioned human translation is simply the only option if you are looking for high quality (correct and accurate) professional document translation services.

In the translation services industry, what does machine translation vs. human translation mean? You have probably seen it before. In its more popular versions, it takes the form of online translation engines or computer programs which can be installed on a PC. In either case the result is an automated translation created exclusively with some sort of computer software, with no intervention from a human translator, professionally certified or otherwise. Translation software uses algorithms and relies mainly on language usage statistics and word substitution. At its core, automated translation is an attempt to simplify human language and it very seldom, if ever, produces a viable and usable translation.

The main issue with this type of approach is that human languages are very sophisticated and complex constructs. They cannot be reduced to their bare bones without significantly hindering communication. It would take considerable advances in artificial intelligence to develop a software program able to grasp the extremely complex subtleties of human languages. Therefore, for the conceivable future, my favorite Star Trek gadget, the “universal translator”, will remain exclusively in the realm of science fiction.

Professional human document translations, on the other hand, are created exclusively by professional certified human translators. They rely on extensive knowledge of both the source and target languages and the ability to naturally recognize and incorporate all the subtleties of human languages, taking into account such considerations as the cultural context, intended market, domain, target audience, etc.

Nowadays, it is common for professional certified human translators to use professional document translation tools, such as translation memory management tools, to aid them with their work. They are known as “computer-assisted translation” (sometimes abbreviated as “CAT”) tools.

Just as using a word processor was a huge leap forward in productivity from using a typewriter, the use of computer tools can have a very positive impact on the quality of professional human document translations.

“Computer-assisted document translation” tools are used by professional human translators in order to have quick access to more accurate glossaries and terminology lists. They also allow professional certified human translators to develop their own glossaries and lexicons according to the requirements of the professional document translation process. They are not suitable for all types of professional document translation projects, but can have a considerable impact on productivity and consistency, especially in complex professional translation projects with higher word counts.

Truly professional document translation services providers such as ASTA-USA Translation Services, Inc. and its legal division, Legal Translation Solutions, offer exclusively human translations done by professional certified human translators, assisted by the latest and most productivity-enhancing tools of the trade.