Wondering what types of translation services you need for your business?
There are mainly two types of translation services: machine-driven translation and human translation services. Both services have many advantages and disadvantages.
In this article, we have dived into those advantages and disadvantages to help you decide which service type best suits your business needs.
We have also explained how different types of content need different types of translation services, whether you need a translation agency or a freelance translator, and where to find the best-certified agencies and marketplaces for hiring freelance translators.
Let’s dive into the article.
Types of Translation: Machine Translation vs Human Translation
In a nutshell, machine translation involves software that automatically translates your content into different languages. Human translation refers to manual translation by a person or a team of people.
Machine Translation: Pros & Cons
Pros: You can rely on machine translations for fast and cost-effective translations.
A machine will take minutes to translate millions of words that a human would require weeks, or most likely months to translate.
Also, machine translating tools take only a few hundred dollars to translate words that humans would require thousands of dollars to translate.
Case in point, average human translation services charge $0.10 for translating a single word which means translating 100,000 word source material requires an investment of $10,000.
Compare this to popular machine translating tools like Google Translate and DeepL which charge around $20 and $25 for translating 100,000 words.
It’s clear that the cost of human translation is steeper.
Cons: Machine translations are not 100% accurate.
Tools like Google Translate and DeepL have improved over the last few years but they achieved only 90-95% accuracy or even less when the specific language pairs are unpopular.
According to a study conducted on Google Translate, content translated by the tool from English to Spanish has high accuracy because it’s a popular and frequently used language pairing. However, content translated from English to Armenian is low on accuracy because the language pair isn’t as popular.
That said, low accuracy or good enough translations may work for some industries like e-commerce, travel, and social media but for other industries like legal, governmental, engineering, medical and healthcare, etc, translation accuracy is non-negotiable.
Human Translation: Pros & Cons
Pros: Human translations offer absolute accuracy or at least close to 100% accuracy depending on the translator’s proficiency.
People are just better at understanding the context of a text, including cultural nuances, humor, idioms, and colloquialisms. That’s why human translators are better at ensuring cultural sensitivity and avoiding unintentional offense or misinterpretation of cultural references.
Cons: Human translations are expensive and time-consuming.
Most professional translators charge by the word or by the hour. The cost can quickly add up, especially for large volumes of text. This makes human translations a less economical choice for individuals or small businesses.
Human translation is also a very time-intensive process. Translators need adequate time to read, understand, and accurately translate the text. Overtly tight deadlines can lead to human errors like typos, mistranslations, or context oversight.
Translators, intentionally or unintentionally, can introduce their cultural bias into their translation. However, this can be avoided by hiring talented translators who have demonstrated good work in the past but these translators are expensive.
Also, finding a translator with expertise in highly specialized fields can be difficult and therefore more expensive.
Different Types of Translation Content
Having clarity on what type of content you want to translate will help determine whether your business requires machine or human translation.
The types of content that businesses typically translate are:
Nearly all businesses have technical documents like user guides and manuals. Tech-specific businesses have documents related to engineering specifications, blueprints, schematics, and technical drawings. Tech content requires human translators specializing in this field.
It refers to annual reports, financial statements, and investment materials that often require translation, especially for businesses operating in multiple countries or seeking international investors. This type of translation requires precision which is why it’s best done by human translators.
It includes advertisements, brochures, product packaging, and promotional campaigns. A successful marketing translation adapts the content to resonate with the local audience and considers cultural nuances, humor, and consumer preferences. Human translators, especially those well-versed in marketing and the target market, are indispensable for this content type.
Content for Internal Use
Translating internal company documents, such as memos, announcements, or procedural documents, may not require the precision of human translation, therefore convenient machine translation is recommended.
Social media content
It refers to text posts, images, videos, articles, polls, surveys, ads, gifs, emojis, etc. Machine translation tools are ideal for generating social media content, especially in situations where speed and quantity are a priority. However, since the content directly impacts brand image, human review is strongly recommended.
Whether you need a machine or a human translator depends entirely on the type of content published on the website. For websites built on WordPress, using a tool like TranslatePress is the best way to translate the site.
The tool offers two modes of translation: automatic and manual translation.
The manual translation is implemented via the tool’s Frontend Translation Editor. It can be used by human translators to translate some of the site’s important pages.
Learn how to translate website content using TranslatePress.
Now that you have some idea of what type of translation service is suitable for your business needs, let’s try and figure out what is the best way to access translation services, i.e. via an agency or through individual translators.
Translation Agencies vs Freelance Translators: Whom to Hire
Translation agencies work with multiple translators specializing in different languages and they deliver complex translation projects under tight deadlines because they have access to large resources.
Freelance translators are individuals who handle the translation projects on their own. They prefer working on small projects with appropriate deadlines.
Both agencies and freelancers rely on machine as well as human translations depending on the type of content that needs translations.
For example, social media content is generated rapidly using machine translation tools but human review is also implemented to ensure nuanced cultural accuracy.
Translation Agency: Pros & Cons
Pros: Agencies often have a pool of translators specializing in different languages so there’s no need to hire multiple translators for multilingual translation projects.
They have separate departments for quality control, project management, client communication, and robust data security measures to ensure a seamless and secure experience for clients seeking translation services.
Cons: Translation agencies are expensive due to their significant overhead expenses like physical offices, employing multiple in-house staff, and investing in advanced translation and project management software.
Freelance Translators: Pros & Cons
Pros: Freelance translators offer competitive rates because they have minimal overhead costs and no intermediary fees, unlike translation agencies.
They also tend to adjust their rates to cater to a broad range of clients, from individuals to small businesses to larger corporations. Such flexibilities allow clients to negotiate rates and secure more cost-effective translation services for their business.
Freelancers directly communicate with clients ensuring that they meet client-specific requirements, preferences, and expectations.
Cons: Freelance translators specialize in a single language so for multilingual translation projects clients have to hire multiple translators. Needless to say, this is a time-consuming and tiresome task.
When working with freelance translators, clients often find themselves playing a hands-on role, reviewing, offering feedback, and requesting revisions to ensure the quality of the translation is top-notch. This too can be a tiresome and time-consuming task for some clients.
Another major drawback of working with freelancers is that they tend to juggle multiple clients and might not be available for urgent or high-volume translation work.
When collaborating with freelance translators, the responsibility for project management largely rests with the client. So you end up overseeing various aspects of the translation project which includes setting clear objectives, providing source materials, defining timelines, and monitoring progress.
This level of involvement provides a lot of control, for sure, but it’s also time-consuming, and effort-intensive.
How to Hire an Agency or Freelancer
Now that you know about the many advantages and disadvantages of using translation agencies and freelance translators, it’s time to make a decision.
Translation agencies provide a convenient, all-in-one solution for large multilingual projects but tend to be costlier. Freelance translators offer cost-effective and personalized services. They are ideal for small projects but they are time-consuming and require a lot of client involvement.
In the end, the choice comes down to your specific needs and preferences.
Once you have decided what type of service you require, proceed to hire translators with the help of the following articles:
What Type of Translation Will You Choose?
Choosing the right type of translation service is super important because you don’t want to switch services midway after realizing that the translation agency or freelancer can’t meet your needs.
Most translation services, be it agencies or freelancers, are driven by machines, humans, or both.
Machine lead translation services offer fast and cost-effective translations but they are often not 100% accurate. Human translation can achieve 100% accuracy but they are expensive, time-consuming, and requires a lot of client involvement.
All these pros and cons are relative of course.
You might not need 100% accuracy and for solopreneurs and small businesses, agencies can seem expensive. The accuracy of human translations is dependent on the translator’s proficiency and client involvement offers more control over the translation project. For small translation projects, human translation services will be inexpensive.
The best way to choose a translation service type is to first recognize your own needs.
In most cases, a hybrid service (like the one TranslatePress offers) where both machine and human translation are involved works best.
Just be sure to select a translation agency or freelance translator who offers the type of translation service your business needs.
If you have any questions about the different types of translation services, let us know in the comment section below.