Whether you want to expand your business, have to give a presentation in a foreign language, or need to translate several documents, sooner or later, you’ll have to face a choice: should you use online translation or contact a translation agency? It’s not always easy to decide what to choose: the first option is much cheaper, while the second one is said to provide a higher-quality translation. But is it really so?

Sometimes Google Translate can be enough – but in many cases, you need to look for professional translation services. However, do they really differ so much? What can a professional translator do that a machine can’t? You may even think that an online translation is a better choice because a human can’t keep all the necessary words in mind. However, there are a lot more factors that matter.

Let’s try to figure it out. If you want to find the difference between a professional translation and a machine-made one, as well as understand when a professional translator is necessary – read on!

So, Who Is a Professional Translator?

A professional translator isn’t just a person who can translate a text from language A to language B. Many more factors make a splendid translation: the right know-how, proper use of various tools, knowledge of the context, experience, and expertise. A professional translator must have the right education, as well as exceptional language and computer skills.

A professional translator is also a person you can trust not only when it comes to getting the best possible translation, but also in keeping the deadlines and handling confidentiality. A good translator will also be committed to the project, comply with your guidelines, and know the target country’s rules, laws, and regulations.

How Qualified Is a Professional Translator?

A professional translator must be well-educated. A traditional path in this industry consists of translation studies (or a degree in foreign languages, majoring in a particular one), a certification program, and a proficiency test. This step takes around five years, and then qualified translators are looking for ways to expand their knowledge: job experience, which allows them to sharpen their skills, different courses, or acquiring higher degrees.

A true professional never stops learning and improving their knowledge on the subject. It’s critical to be up to date with the translation industry, as new trends and regulations appear, and everything has to be translated as clearly and explicitly as possible.

Machine Translation Or Professional Translation?

Machine translation is faster, and it can translate any word in less than a second. However, as you may already know, factors other than speed also play a role when it comes to the accuracy of translations.

Yes, translators often use specific software – but only as an aid in the process. To correctly translate the text – transfer it from one language to another – a translator needs much more than just the knowledge of target vocabulary. A translation process consists of getting familiar with the guidelines, doing the research (on the topic and the target culture), knowing the context, getting a professional translation of the text (it must be accurate and feel natural), and proofreading.

On the other hand, machine translation will only provide you with a word-by-word translation, which always needs correction. Of course, it gets better with the development of technology, and new solutions appear on the market – for example, neural machine translation services, which are more accurate than Google Translate. However, professional translators may come in handy even if you use neural machines, as the computers can’t truly comprehend the context and target culture, choose the most appropriate word, and proofread the text.

A Freelancer or a Translation Agency?

If you need to have something professionally translated and start looking for options, you may often choose between two solutions: hiring a freelancer or going to the translation agency. Which is better?

Of course, a freelancer’s work often costs less; however, you can’t always know if the person is a qualified professional. While looking for freelancer translators online, you may end up hiring an untrustworthy person, who doesn’t know everything a professional has to know, won’t stick to deadlines, and even can provide you with inaccurate translation – which will often carry unintended consequences.

On the other hand, if you work with a translation agency, you can be sure that a group of professionals is working on your project. First, a highly-educated bilingual professional will translate your text into the target language, and then several other people will proofread it, comparing a translation to the source, checking the grammar, and editing the text. Yes, such a translation will cost more, but if you need to translate an important document or business-related web pages, that’s the best option.

Machines Won’t Take Over the Translation Industry

If you need to have something translated, nowadays you have a wide variety of ways to do it. Of course, there are better and worse choices, but the final decision must depend on your needs. If you want to read a passage from a website in a different language, there’s no simpler and cheaper way to do it than to use a machine translation. If you want to translate your Ph.D. or a website, on the other hand, working with a professional will definitely be a better solution.

A person specializing in translation will comply to all your guidelines, do the research, get familiar with the subject, and provide you with the best translation for your specific case. Remember: good translation is often an important step on the road to success.

(Beata Hardzei)

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