The Pros and Cons of Machine Translation

When you have a translation project on the docket, do you run it through an AI programme or let a real-life linguist take a look at your documents? This is the question of the hour as technology advances faster each year, creating increasingly efficient and reliable translations.

Machine translation is an automated translation process with plenty of advantages. And like many automated programmes, they come down to how automation is faster and cheaper than any human equivalent. 

Unfortunately, the technology powering these algorithms still has a long way to go in terms of refinement, so machine translation’s biggest drawback is its susceptibility to errors. 

The Pros of Machine Translation

  • Cost-efficient
  • Fast turnaround times
  • Suitable for large volume projects

Machine translation’s biggest appeal is its ability to produce content on a tight timeline. That’s because its hardware can crunch certain kinds of information faster than the human brain. As a result, it can power through large volumes of text faster than its human counterpart. 

A certified translation service like LingArch has seen an increase in the number of law firms that use machine translation software for exactly this reason. In multi-jurisdictional matters, lawyers may have to review hundreds of foreign language documents to prepare their work.

These lawyers may not have the time to wait for a human-led translation of these documents, especially when they only need to know the general gist of their content for their internal research. Machine translation software can quickly convert these documents from one language to another, so lawyers can review this information fast. 

The Cons of Machine Translation

  • Can overlook cultural content
  • Fluctuating levels of accuracy
  • Can produce costly grammatical or cultural mistakes

Although machine translation software has come a long way in the past decade, it still fails to perform at the same level as a human linguist in terms of style or accuracy. 

That’s because many programmes rely on statistical-based translations. This means it makes decisions based on how common words and phrases are used, regardless of the context. By subbing in what’s most statistically likely, machine translation software can overlook slang, specialised language, and unique cultural material.

In this scenario, the software can produce work that seems off to a native speaker. The problem may be as subtle as a slightly awkward flow to the work, or it could result in more obvious grammatical errors and structural issues. It may even fail to make an accurate translation when your project involves industry-specific words or phrases.

As a result, machine translation may not be the right choice when you need to produce a sleek, stylistic document for a wide audience. This kind of project is better left to a linguist who can balance tone with technical perfection.

How Do These Pros and Cons Compare? 

Machine translation has a time and place in the industry. Its software offers a quick, inexpensive way to convert text from one language to another, but it may overlook stylistic and cultural nuances that impact the accuracy of its work. 

By comparison, a human linguist may produce a refined final copy that retains the intent and tone of the original language, but it takes time. Now that you know the different roles these services play, you can choose the right option for your needs.

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