diplomatic language services blog post about machine translation
06.19.2014

Machine Translation: Advantages and Disadvantages

Machine translation is a tool designed to speed up the rate that documents can be translated, as well as bring down overall costs. While it is certainly successful in doing these tasks, there are tradeoffs in utilizing this system of translation. Here are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of machine translation:

ADVANTAGES:
Timeline

The rate of machine translation is exponentially faster than that of human translation. The average human translator can translate around 2,000 words a day. Multiple translators can be assigned to a given project to increase that output, but it pales in comparison to translation via machine. Machines can generate thousands of words each minute. However, one should note that the output is not in its final useable form right away, but in certain scenarios, it can be quite useful. Even when adding a post-editing step, translation by a machine takes a fraction of the time that human translation takes.

Cost

The cost is also a mere fraction of the cost of human translation. While the major cost for standard translation projects is the cost of the translators, the biggest cost for machine translation projects is in the post-editing process, which ends up saving the client a great deal.

Adaptation

Machine translation can memorize key terms and phrases commonly used within a given industry. This leads to translations that are very consistent across the entire file, something that is more difficult to achieve when using multiple human translators.

DISADVANTAGES:
Accuracy

Translation performed by machines is simply not at a point where it can create perfectly accurate translations on a regular basis. The technology has improved drastically in the past 10 years, but it is certainly still a work in progress. Therefore, even after editing, the meaning from the original document will not be 100% accurate.

Limited Use

Since the aforementioned accuracy is an issue with machine translation, there are certain types of documents that simply should not be translated in this manner. If you want a novel adapted to another language, you are much better off using a human team than machine translators. It’s best use is incredibly large documents where you are searching for key terms and phrases.

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