SimulTrans Localization Blog: SimulTips

Machine vs. Human Translation - Which to Choose

[fa icon="calendar"] September 26, 2014 / by the SimulTrans Team

When you need to have your content translated, there are a lot of decisions you will have to make. Which vendor should you work with? What languages does your content need to be translated into? How will the vendor translate your content?

One decision you may be faced with is choosing between Machine Translation and human translation. At SimulTrans, we work with our clients to determine the best approach for translating their content, but just so you can be as informed as possible, today we will take a deeper look at what exactly Machine Translation is and its benefits.

What is Machine Translation?

Machine Translation (MT) is the use of а computer to translate text from a source language to a target language allowing for increased productivity, reduced translation time, and greater cost savings.

Why choose Machine Translation?

Speed - when companies translate large amounts of content, Machine Translation is often a quicker process than working with human translators. However, a lot of people fear a loss of accuracy with Machine Translation as a computer is doing the translating, not a native speaker of the target language. To counter this, SimulTrans integrates machines translation into a traditional translation memory workflow for optimal leverage and effective post-editing. Experienced linguists immediately customize and optimize the Machine Translation engine as they post-edit the raw output. This approach allows for corrective human feedback for instant and continuous improvement of the Machine Translation system.

Consistency - In some cases, Machine Translation produces a better quality than human translation. This is mainly due to the consistency in terminology and style, which is where Machine Translation really excels. Rule-based Machine Translation is a very effective form of terminology management because the human post-editor is being guided through the correct terminology and its consistent employment.

Get more for less - SimulTrans’ approach allows for projects to be customized very quickly, leading to significant savings in translation cost. Machine Translation also unlocks the door for processing dramatically larger amounts of text which may actually need translation but where human translation has thus far been cost-prohibitive.


When should you choose to work with humans vs. machines?

Knowledge of the Translated Language

Human translators know the language they are translating to. It is always their native language. This allows them the ability to understand cultural contexts. It also allows them to translate your materials in a way that will be easily understood by the intended readers. Working with human translators allows for the document to not sound as if it was translated at all. A human translator has the ability to produce translations that sound as if they were originally written in the translated language.

Cultural Understanding

Beyond having an in-depth understanding of the translated language, oftentimes, translators are also great writers. Unlike machines, human translators will understand what might be culturally confusing, offensive, or irrelevant. Working with a human translator, you are assured the end result of your translated materials is one that flows seamlessly in the translated language.


While effective at translating a large amount of content in a quick time, machines lack the ability to be creative. Working with a human translator allows for an actual translation. When relying solely on Machine Translation, you’ll often find literal translations for your documents—including phrases or expressions that do not necessarily translate. Human translators, as stated above, have a deep understanding of their native language and are able to translate these superfluous phrases into expressions that would make sense in the translated language.

Topics: Translation Services

the SimulTrans Team

Written by the SimulTrans Team

SimulTrans provides software, document, and website localization services, translating text into over 100 languages. Established in 1984, SimulTrans has enabled thousands of businesses to provide high-quality content to their international customers. Management ownership allows an exclusive focus on customers and quality, as exemplified by ISO 9001 and ISO 17100 certifications. In addition to its headquarters in Mountain View, California, SimulTrans has offices in Boston, Dublin, London, Paris, Bonn, and Tokyo.