Human Translation

    Danilo Coviello

    What do you think of when you need a piece of text translated? Do you immediately turn to Google translate, or would you rather find someone who knows the language you need? In this blog post, we will explain what professional human translation is and why it is so important for translations of professional documents.

    Maybe you have specific requirements from the translation services. Maybe you work in the legal field or need technical translations of product specifications. Maybe you need multilingual websites for your e-commerce platform. Whatever your target audience, this article will help to explain why human translation is the only way to get a translation that has ideal accuracy and quality.

    Translation companies all have different approaches, so you need to make sure that you get the right solution for your needs.

    What is the difference between human and machine translation?

    As their names suggest, human translation and machine translation refer to using machines or people to translate documents. While both of these approaches can give customers a correct translation, they both have benefits and should be weighed against one another.

    Human translation:

    Human translation uses professional human translators who are highly qualified in translating languages. They are often native speakers and will understand the nuance of the original text. Professional translation services using skilled linguists have been used for thousands of years, and the experience and dedication of human translators can ensure high-quality results.

    Machine translation:

    Machine translation uses highly advanced algorithms to translate texts. These can be more advanced than just Google translate.

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    Neural machine translation means that translation software learns as it translates. It can learn more naturalistic ways of phrasing sentences and try to make the text more easily understood by humans. Improvement in translation memory means that machine translation programs can also get faster at translating texts, as they remember words and phrases they have already translated in the past.

    However, machine translation engines have no understanding of the texts they translate – they are, after all, machines. They work using algorithms and mathematics, not using the actual familiarity with a language, which can cause problems. They typically translate single words or short phrases, rather than treating text as a whole document.

    Computer-aided translation.

    There is a middle-ground. Computer-aided translation, or CAT, is when a professional human translator uses computer software tools to aid their own translation and then checks for accuracy and context. While a CAT tool can speed up translation and allow a human translator to handle a high volume of translations more quickly, it can still have some of the failings of machine translation.

    What do human translators do?

    There is no simple answer to what a human translator does. The truth is that there are many skilled professionals who all work to make the best translations for their customers.

    Within one company you will find the tasks are split across multiple different professional translators based on their skills.

    In some ways, we could refer to professional human translation as a machine in its own right. The process can involve multiple different specialists who all work to make a high-quality translation.

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    So what is the human translation machine?

    Linguistic consultants

    The process starts with the work of a linguistic consultant. This will be a native speaker who also has years of experience in your original language. The translator is required to translate the document in a way that captures the spirit of the original text. Since the translators are native speakers, they will also understand the context and meaning of the writing. They will be able to translate the text with the right tone and the original meaning intact.


    A secondary step usually involves a professional editor whose job is to post edit and refine the first translator’s work perfectly to suit the technical expressions of the subject. This includes checking that every word has been translated to the true meaning and that the subject matter is properly put across. Once the text is post-edited then you can be sure that the translation project is accurate and makes sense concerning both the source document and the finer details of the target language.

    Project managers

    There is of course also a professional project manager. A project manager’s role is to review the finished project to ensure that it is in the correct format for delivery to the client. The precise message, style, and tone remain faithful to the original and are accurately expressed in the target language.

    Why is this a good thing?

    Obviously, with a process that takes this many steps and involves many professional linguists, lots of industries trust human translation services to translate their texts with accuracy and expertise. Every professional takes this translation work very seriously and the best agencies come very highly recommended.

    Why is professional human translation Important?

    Obviously, there are many companies that use language and rely on communication. If you have a document with confidential information or technical details, it is vital to have this translated accurately.

    A professional translator has an important quality advantage over a machine translation. This is primarily because a professional human translator will understand the idioms, phrases, and nuance of your target language, as well as fully considering the details of your source document.

    Machine Translation vs Human Translation: Which is better?

    This brings us to the big question – which is better, human translation or a machine with automated translation? The answer may depend on the exact translation service you need.

    Benefits of machine translation

    Machine translation has a few benefits over using human translators. Typically it is faster – obviously, machines can work much faster than humans. This can make the translation cheaper. This may particularly be a benefit if you need a lot of documents translated and do not need complete accuracy or readability. Certain domains may find this useful.

    Downsides of machine translation

    However, it is worth noting that a lot of machine translations can be severely lacking. As they do not truly understand the source language, the target languages, or the context of the work, they may not be able to provide an accurate translation.

    A translation done by a machine may look acceptable at first, but speakers of your target language may find the text difficult to understand. An inaccurate grammatical structure might make your target audience feel that your website or text is amateurish or low-effort, and could cost your company customers.

    Benefits of human translation services

    Human translation is the ideal solution for people who need high-quality work. This is especially important in some fields, for example when you need a technical translation – a machine may be able to translate individual words, but will not understand the context of the text, where a human will.

    Qualified human translators can competently bring your texts to audiences across the world. They will often translate only into one language – their native tongue. This means that the target readers will find themselves right at home with the text provided by a professional human translation. This leads to an increase in trust and custom.

    Downsides of a human translator

    Since human translation is a comprehensive process that uses trained professional translators, there is a higher per-word cost to translation. However, as shown above, this cost is very much worth it to get the best translator working on your text, and your company will benefit from having better customer outreach.

    Final thoughts

    By now, you should have a good idea of the process of using human translators, and why this is a big advantage over using machines. Of course, translating sensitive or complex documents is a lengthy subject and has almost endless amounts of variation to consider. That is why we would absolutely advise putting your trust in humans over machines.

    Languages are complex. Over thousands of years, language has evolved to contain idioms, turns of phrase, metaphors, and even double entendres. It is vitally important to make sure that all of these are understood and properly rephrased in the new language.

    All of this is why EspressoTranslations only uses native-language human translators for our clients, and why we believe you would get the best outcome by working with us.