Rush Projects: Machine Translation vs. Human-Powered Translation

Rush Projects: Machine Translation vs. Human-Powered Translation

You’ve planned a process for your translation needs and have a clear timeline, but a sudden change results in a need to request a rush turnaround on a translation project. The first question you might ask is, “Should I use a machine translation tool or take the time needed for human translators to complete this project?”

To answer this question, let’s define these two forms of translation and look at the contexts of where they can and cannot be used. Then, we’ll go through what you can expect from our team of translators throughout your rush turnaround project.

Machine translation

Machine translation is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to complete translation projects. By using new translation software technology, it can provide a much faster output. Best practices for machine translation still include a human, professional translator providing post-editing support. Depending on the quality of the machine translation, post-editing may take enough time to negate the time saved by using machine translation instead of human-powered translation.

However, relying on machine translation has some significant drawbacks in quality no matter how advanced. We’ll touch on the disadvantages further down in this article.

Human-powered translation

Human-powered translation uses a real, live person with a cultural and contextual understanding to translate the material. Although computer-aided translation tools are still used in the process, it’s not the same as machine translation tools that entirely rely on AI. Instead, human translators use translation software programs to improve their work efficiency, accuracy, and consistency.

Professional translators work at a pace of approximately 1,500-2,000 words per day, with one to two days of project management time included. This allows our team enough time to implement best practices in translation, editing, and proofreading. Our three-step process complies with our independent certification to the ISO 17100 standard.

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Key decision-making factors

Two key factors, among others, can help you determine which choice is right for your project: the target language and the nature of the content.

The target language is the language into which the materials are to be translated. Not all languages perform equally in machine translation. For example, quality issues appear consistently when using machine translation for Burmese and Japanese. These issues rarely arise with a professional human translator. Human translators rely on their linguistic capabilities and cultural knowledge, as well as the editing and proofreading process to ensure quality in their translation work.

The nature of the content is equally important to consider. Nuance, humor, and localization can be lost with machine translation. An example of this is translating pun-based humor or acronyms. AI is severely limited in its understanding of these aspects of language, and the impact is lost in a confusing, literal translation. In contrast, a human translator has the capacity to produce solutions for these nuanced situations.

Real-world examples

Machine translation may work well for internal company memos where the translation gives a general overview of the content and is not customer-facing. An employee can quickly obtain clarification in this situation, and errors aren’t publicly shared.

On the other hand, intentionally crafted marketing messages with nuanced language will require a professional human translator for the best results. The translator will maintain accuracy and branding or voice with your messaging.

LUNA’s process for rush translations and expectations

When working with professional human translators, you’ll have several options to improve speed for rush projects, including:

  • Assigning multiple translators with one editor to streamline tone, voice, and word choice
  • Providing translation memories, glossaries, and style guides
  • Submitting editable files to limit formatting and file preparation time. This helps translators leverage the power of computer-aided translation tools for segmenting, translating, and quality assurance checks at a faster rate.

Depending on the content volume, the timing of the request, and the requested turnaround time, additional rush fees may be applied to ensure that the best translators are able to accept projects and reach your goals of speed and quality.

Ready to start your translation project with LUNA? Our team is here to support you. Call 317.341.4137 or email us at for more information.