Machine or Professional Translation: When Should You Use Which?

You are considering translating your website and are stuck at a crossroad: do you go with machine translation (MT) or professional (human) translation?

It really all depends. Factors such as your priorities, goals and budget will no doubt play a big role in your decision. If cost and speed are of the essence and you are willing to compromise on the highest quality, then MT may be your best solution.

On the other hand if you do not have a lot of volume to translate and quality output is your priority over cost and speed, you may want to consider human translation.

Or – and here is where the great versatility of the multi-layered dakwak translation system comes into play – you can use a mixture of both to suit your needs. Today, most businesses find that using both MT and human translation is most beneficial to them in terms of cost, productivity and quality.

The key lies in identifying which of your web pages to machine translate and which are best left to a human translator. While there is no clear-cut formula that will give you the answer, the idea is to use machine translation for pages that are not at the forefront of your website and/or are of lower importance to you. More important pages would benefit from the higher quality of professional translation.

When to use MT
Machines are not humans; they can understand and translate words but not meaning or context. As a result, we cannot expect MT to produce the highest quality of output. But is the highest quality always necessary? According to some businesses: no. As long as customers in international markets can be reached and the general gist of the information is understood, that may be all that matters.

Consider using MT

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when:

  1. Price is a priority. MT is the cheapest option, making it a great first step for start-ups and companies with tight budgets. Remember you or one of your team can easily edit the output or you can make use of our crowd-sourced platform that allows visitors to your site to contribute to your translations
  2. Speed is a priority. MT is fast, super fast, and capable of translating hundreds of pages of text in an instant.
  3. Accuracy is not your main priority and you just want to get a general idea across.
  4. You have a large volume of content that is not at the forefront of your website, such as archived blog posts, press releases and articles that you still want to

    make available in another language.

  5. You want to translate your website into multiple languages (5 or more) that couldn’t realistically be done with human translation.
  6. You have technical documents such as manuals. Finding a translator with technical knowledge in your field is not always easy.
  7. You are thinking about redesigning your website in the near future. It will probably not be worth your time and money to invest in a human translator at this stage.
  8. You are translating between closely related language pairs. MT is very accurate with language pairs such as Swedish and Danish, Russian and Ukrainian, and Spanish and Portuguese.

When to rely on professional translation
Some content should not be left to MT lest you fall prey to a costly and not to mention embarrassing situation! If not translated from the source language, at the very least, the following should be meticulously scrutinized by a professional translator:

  1. Content that is at the forefront of your website such as your About US and Product pages or pages that portray your corporate image.
  2. Content that is more detailed and requires a deeper understanding than just conveying a general idea.
  3. Content that needs to be adapted to the particular cultural context of a country.
  4. Content that requires creativity or a “human touch”.
  5. Marketing messages such

    as slogans. You cannot rely on MT for your slogans or you might end up in a less than ideal situation, as Kentucky Fried Chicken knows only too well. Its slogan “finger lickin’ good” was mistranslated into Chinese as “eat your fingers off.” (Time Magazine. Nov. 17, 2003).

  6. Legal documents, contracts.
  7. Financial reports.
  8. Calls for tenders.
  9. Safety information.