Language mediators have been indispensable since time immemorial when it comes to facilitating communication between different language communities. In earlier times, they were mainly used by commanders who were conquering new territories and needed to communicate their values and goals to the locals. Nowadays, the translation industry is entrusted with much more peaceful tasks. First and foremost, translation services are concerned with the internationalization of companies. But here, too, the communication of values and goals plays a crucial role.
It is a widely known fact that machine translation services like DeepL or Google Translate are free and easily accessible. Therefore, the question arises whether one still needs a professional translation service at all? In the following, we will give an overview of where machines have their advantages and where human professional translators are the better choice.
Good reasons for a professional translation service
There are many reasons why it pays to hire a professional translation service instead of having translations done for free by machine translation. Here are some facts and figures to support this:
- Quality: Professional translations are done by experienced translators who have in-depth knowledge of the language and culture. Machine translations, on the other hand, may contain errors and the quality of the translation may be unreliable.
- Error rate: According to a study by Common Sense Advisory, machine translations have an average error rate of 23%, while professional translations have an error rate of only 0.3%.
- Accuracy: Machine translations can have difficulty understanding subtle meanings and cultural allusions, which can lead to comprehension problems and misunderstandings. Professional translations, on the other hand, are able to take these subtleties into account and ensure that the translation is accurate and precise.
- Image: A bad translation can have a negative impact on a company’s image. A professional technical translation, on the other hand, helps to improve a company’s image and gain the trust of customers.
Cost: At first glance, it may seem attractive to have translations done for free by machine translation, but the cost of correcting errors and repeating translations can add up over time. In comparison, professional translation services offer higher quality and accuracy and can be more cost-effective in the long run.
How to find a quality translation service
Finding a high-quality translation service is often a challenge, especially when it comes to specialized translations for very specific industries and fields – the whole thing possibly into a variety of “exotic” languages. Hardly any service provider has in-depth expertise in all subject areas and in all languages – even if some claim to. To ensure that your content is translated correctly and reaches the target audience, you need to find a translation service provider with the right skills.
Freelancer or company?
It is also important to consider whether to entrust your documents to an individual freelancer or to a translation company. Which of the two options is the right one depends to a large extent on the volume of the order, but also on the services required, i.e. technology to be used, languages involved, areas of expertise, consulting required, etc.
As a rule, freelance professional translators are cheaper than companies. You have direct contact with the person working on the texts. This is often seen as a clear advantage.
If you are dealing with a company or an agency, a project manager is often the direct contact person. This person will of course forward your briefing and other information. Depending on the volume of work and the deadline situation, certain projects cannot be completed by a single person. There is no other choice than to call in a company that coordinates several translation resources at the same time. A company also ensures continuity in the event of vacation or illness.
Quality and certifications
One of the most important arguments for a company is the dual-review principle in quality assurance, which a single translator cannot provide. The dual-review principle is also a cornerstone of various certifications, such as ISO 17100.
In addition, it can of course also happen that your orders cover completely different subject areas. Professional translators usually specialize in certain fields. A larger translation service is much better able to provide a bundled offer for technical documentation, documents or even marketing communication. The number of languages requested is also an important factor here.
This is usually reflected in the price. Individual translators more often offer a lower price, but are limited in the breadth of service or number of specialties. Depending on their experience in the industry, some translators offer a variety of specializations. Among professional translators, however, it is quite common to specialize in one foreign language and one subject area, unless they work with a partner who can also provide professional translations in other subject areas.
The lure of the free “translation agency”
If you search online for a (especially) free translation service, you will find that there are many machine translation services available. These use highly complicated algorithms such as neural networks, machine learning or even artificial intelligence to analyze the meaning of text in one language and convert this information into another language.
Machine translation can reliably translate text-based content, but when it comes to humor or irony, the results are often unsatisfactory. This is because machine translation is unable to understand context and adapt to a particular culture. Wordplay also works poorly with machine translation because not every word can be directly translated into another. This means that machine translations are limited compared to human translators when dealing with humor, irony, and puns.
With such linguistically complex requirements, even today there is no way around a native speaker who brings his training and experience to bear in order to achieve the best possible linguistic result.
Advantages of the machine
However, machine translation also offers some advantages over human translation, especially when it comes to speed. Machine translation is capable of translating large amounts of text in a short time. It has fast and powerful technologies that can translate texts from one language to another with almost no delay. This not only saves money, but also facilitates the process of international exchange. Moreover, machine translation can minimize the risk of human errors and ensure consistent quality across multiple projects. With advanced AI-based machine translation systems, companies can drastically reduce the time between content creation and delivery, increasing their productivity.
Nowadays, well-trained MT (machine translation) masters many language combinations, takes into account provided terminology and is able to provide a wide range of translation services in a very short time in many different fields.
This is primarily an advantage when the immediate availability of information is much more important than one hundred percent correctness. A popular example in this context is tsunami warnings. Here, every minute is precious. Questions of style or tonality are of completely secondary importance.
Machine translation and human translation (whether by a company or a freelance translator) both have their raison d’être. The offer is large on both sides and the market sometimes difficult to survey, but once you have clearly defined your requirements in terms of text types, subject areas, languages, turnaround times, service levels, etc., the choice becomes easier.
In general, the more complex the project is in terms of language, technology, the whole translation process, the clearer is the choice for a human translation service. If the requirements in terms of language level, source formats and technology to be used are lower and the quick result brings a clear advantage, then these translation services can also be provided by a good MT. If necessary, a native speaker who has the necessary experience in post-editing is needed to bring such translation projects to a satisfactory result for the customer.