top of page

Machine Translation or Human Translation... The Great Debate.

Regardless of your industry, if you want to connect with non-English speaking populations, you’ll need to speak their language. Translation is the conversion of written text from a source (original) language to one or more target (new) languages.

If you’re considering translating important documents, web pages, or media files, you should start by having a solid understanding of different translation methods so you can really narrow down your search for the right solution. Let's get to it!


There are three ways to translate written text: machine translation, human translation, and a combination of the two.

Machine translation refers to the use of computers to convert written text from one language to another. Machine translation engines are good at translating technical texts with lots of phrase repetition and minimal room for interpretation. In other words, this software is not yet capable of fully comprehending cultural nuances embedded in the text. While there have been some improvements in machine translation technology, its primary function is to rapidly translate the words in the text, not the meaning of the message.

Human translation employs human experience and expertise when converting written text from one language to another. Professional human translation can consist of many phases, but at minimum, two steps are required: translation and review. Whether a team or an individual completes these phases, the focus is to maintain the exact same message in every target language.

Additionally, professional human translators use translation technology to help maintain consistency and improve efficiency across large projects. These tools allow translators to analyze phrase repetition, and automatically apply recurring translations throughout the document. Human translation is necessary when accurate communications are important.

Combining human and machine translation can be useful when large volumes of text must be translated with accuracy. In this case, the document is put through a machine translation engine to rapidly translate the text into a rough draft. Expert human translators then edit, proofread, and re-edit the document to ensure accuracy.

However, this approach can be daunting when translating documents with conversational text (rather than repetitive technical terminology). The human translator may have more difficulty interpreting the translated text if the machine translation engine is incapable of properly translating entire phrases or sentences.


The extent to which you should use humans, machines, or both will heavily depend on the purpose of the text.

When to use machine translation:

  • When the reader only needs a general gist of the information.

  • When thorough communication is unnecessary.

When to use human translation:

  • When accurate communication is important.

  • When the text contains complex, non-repetitive, terminology.

When to use a combination:

  • When accurate communication is important.

  • When the text consists of highly repetitive terminology.


Auracom International offers professional translation and interpreting services in over 200 languages. View our services or contact us directly for more information.

Featured Posts

Featured Resource

bottom of page