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Compare and contrast AI and human translation

by Ana Lopez
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Salvador Ordorica is the CEO of The Spanish Group LLCa top-notch international translation service that translates over 90 languages.

Translation plays a vital role in bridging the gap between different languages ​​and cultures. Traditionally, human translators have been the best choice for accurate and nuanced translations. However, AI translation, a thriving subfield of natural language processing (NLP), claims to bridge language barriers and advance global communication. This new world of machine language translation begs the question of which is preferable: human or AI translation services?

To help answer this, let’s take a closer look at these two ways of translating by looking at the benefits and challenges you may encounter when using each.

Human translation

Human translation involves the process of translating text from one language to another through the expertise of trained professionals.

• Advantages

Skilled translators have a thorough understanding of both the source and target languages, including their cultural nuances and contextual subtleties, which helps the translator ensure that the literal, emotional, and cultural context of the message is conveyed to the target audience. For example, imagine an entrepreneur who wants to expand into a foreign market with a marketing slogan based on puns. A skilled human translator would have the cultural knowledge necessary to adapt the slogan, maintain its intended impact and resonate with the local audience. A famous example is Coca-Cola’s “Taste the Feeling” campaign, which was demanded careful localization to maintain its impact in different markets.

Human translators can also use contextual judgment to process complex texts, such as legal documents or technical manuals. They can interpret ambiguous or idiomatic expressions by considering the wider context, resulting in a more accurate and faithful translation. This is especially important for companies dealing with complex contracts, patent applications or regulatory documents where precision is paramount.

• Challenges

Translators, like all people, can make mistakes, especially when dealing with tight deadlines or large amounts of work. Even highly skilled professionals can occasionally overlook or misinterpret certain sentences, resulting in inaccuracies. To avoid these mistakes, it is important to include a proofreading phase in the translation process. A proofreader reviews written material for errors, clarity, consistency, and overall quality to ensure consistency in language, formatting, and style throughout the document.

Another potential limitation is cost. Human translation services typically cost more than AI translation tools, so small businesses on a budget can sometimes find it challenging to hire a professional translation service.

AI translation

AI translation, also known as machine translation, uses algorithms and computational models to automatically translate text from one language to another.

• Advantages

With the ability to process massive amounts of data in seconds, AI translation platforms can deliver near-instantaneous translations, enabling real-time communication between languages. In scenarios where speed and scalability are paramount, such as translating user-generated content on social media platforms, AI-powered solutions can efficiently process large volumes of text with minimal human intervention.

Once the initial development and training costs are incurred, the continued use of AI translation tools is also typically more affordable. This accessibility can enable individuals, small businesses, and organizations with limited budgets to overcome language barriers without breaking the bank.

• Challenges

AI tools can struggle to capture context and produce translations that convey the full meaning of the original text. Language is complex and culturally specific expressions such as idioms and metaphors, as well as ambiguous or ungrammatical sentences and other context-dependent word choices can pose challenges to AI algorithms. In some cases, such as contracts or legal documents, relying solely on AI translation can cause errors and legal complications.

Cultural sensitivity is another area where AI translation can fall short. Translation is not only about the literal meaning of words, but also about the cultural implications and social connotations associated with them. AI often lacks the ability to recognize cultural subtleties, which increases the risk of insensitive or controversial interpretations.


Ultimately, the choice between human translation and AI translation depends on the specific needs of the business and the importance of linguistic accuracy and cultural sensitivity in the given context. One way companies can strike a balance is by using a hybrid approach, combining the strengths of human translation with the efficiency of AI translation. By using AI for routine high-volume translations and relying on human translators for complex or culturally sensitive content, you may be able to achieve accurate and culturally relevant translations while optimizing time and costs.

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