Translating in the Digital Age: The Pros and Cons of AI vs. Human Translation

January 16, 2023
Translating in the Digital Age:  The Pros and Cons of AI vs. Human Translation

No business can successfully expand into the global market without translation services, which has led to the rising demand for accurate and efficient translations. With AI reaching groundbreaking heights, it's no wonder why the translation industry sought to implement it into the translation process.

However, this has brought about much debate on human vs and machine translation, which has been an issue among professionals in the industry for decades and persists to this day. This is especially so with the rise of a new player under AI translation: ChatGPT.

So today, let's explore the pros and cons of AI and human translation and take a close look at ChatGPT and its role in particular areas of the global market.


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Pros of AI Translation

Before we get started on identifying the difference between human and machine translation, let's first define what machine translation is.

Machine translation is a program that interprets and translates text from one language to another. There are various types of machine translation. AI and natural language processing run the latest machine translations.

As you can see, machine translations have come a long way since the 1950s, especially now that it's powered by AI model programming. So, it doesn't come as a surprise to learn that the machine translation sector has drastically grown over the years and is currently projected to have a market value of 7.5 billion USD by 2030. We listed below some advantages of AI translation.

  • Speed and efficiency - Because of its advanced programming, AI-based technology like ChatGPT can take in large quantities of data, which allows it to translate text in a matter of seconds. It's also why many businesses have integrated it into their workflow and translation process.

  • Accessibility and implementation - AI translation tools have the potential to be integrated and widely used by society. This includes using it across different platforms and mediums.

  • Cost-effectiveness - The cost of AI-powered machine translation has significantly decreased over the years. It has made translating content more available to individuals and businesses who don't have the budget for a linguist.

  • Versatile - AI-based systems like ChatGPT are constantly learning and improving. So it can be used to translate content for different industries, especially those needing specialized translations.

Where does ChatGPT fit in all of this? ChatGPT is a state-of-the-art AI language model developed by OpenAI. Compared to other AI language models, it generates human-like text. It has a more nuanced understanding of language, which is why it can translate text and handle multiple dialects and languages.


Cons of AI Translation

Despite the advantages of AI translation, it's still flawed, like any technology. We listed below the cons you should consider before fully implementing it into your daily tasks.

  • Lack of cultural context - This is one of the biggest limitations when using AI-based technology, as it lacks a cultural understanding that will lead to inconsistencies in detail. This is due to misinterpretations of data found online.

  • Perpetuating biases - Because AI models like ChatGPT get their data from the Internet, there's a possibility that its translations are based on biases.

  • Poor linguistic context - Besides not understanding the culture of the source and target languages it's translating, there's a high chance that idiomatic expressions and humor will not be understood.

  • Data security - Translation deals with a lot of sensitive information, and there is a high possibility of data breaches and cybersecurity threats with AI tools. ChatGPT has been reported to be used to hack and steal files. Who is to say that ChatGPT's own program won't be hacked?

  • Lacking specialized skill - There's a reason why we don't have AI lawyers and doctors. Certain specialized skills need years of experience and human judgment, which machines—at this point, anyway— don't have.


Pros of Human Translation

To get to the heart of the issue and controversy of human translation vs. machine translation, we first asked ChatGPT what language is. As ChatGPT puts it, “language is a system of communication used by humans to express thoughts, ideas, and emotions.” Some would say, based on ChatGPT’s definition, that there’s no one more suited for language translation than human translators, as language is an inherently human quality.

That said, let’s take a look at the positive side of human translations.

  • Culturally sensitive - Human translators have a cultural understanding and attention to detail that can ensure translations’ accuracy and cultural sensitivity.

  • Linguistic nuances - Humans can understand the context and meaning of a text and convey this in the target language. They also have a better grasp of idiomatic expressions and humor.

  • Accuracy and quality - Humans are more accurate in providing the translation of a text because, unlike machine translation, they can proofread and edit it. They can also clear up any misunderstanding or questions by exchanging with their clients or other professionals in the industry.

  • Personal touch - There have been some notable human translators throughout history, and it’s because they left behind a creative and unique take on the translation of many novels and poems. Due to this, many consider translation an art form in its own right.


Cons of Human Translation

Like with machine translation, humans aren't perfect. And we listed a couple of examples of the downside to hiring human translators without the assistance of machine translation.

  • Expensive - Depending on the languages a human translator specializes in, a translation project can get quite pricey.

  • Less accessible - Humans may not be able to work 24/7 like AI-based systems.

  • Low volume output - Humans can only handle so much in a given amount of time, which makes any large-volume project particularly hard to handle since multiple individuals may need to work on it, which requires additional revision costs for consistency and accuracy.

  • Delays - Humans may not always be able to meet tight deadlines.

  • Human error - Humans can sometimes overlook details and specific data, which leads to inaccuracies.



Both AI and human translation have their pros and cons. On the one hand, AI-based translation technology like ChatGPT can offer efficiency and fast delivery of translations. However, it's still limited as it doesn't understand a text's cultural and linguistic nuances. On the other hand, human translators can ensure accuracy and cultural sensitivity. However, human translators have a hard time providing maximum efficiency and large-volume production compared to AI and machine translation. For this reason, the most likely outcome is that purely machine translation services and human translation services will depend on what kind of translation is needed. The majority of translation services will be a combination of machine translation and the skills of human translators.

If you want to learn more about human translators and their relevance in the coming years, you can read all about it here: The role of the translator in 2030 and beyond.

By Clarriza Heruela

Clarriza Mae Heruela graduated from the University of the Philippines Mindanao with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, majoring in Creative Writing. Her experience from growing up in a multilingually diverse household has influenced her career and writing style. She is still exploring her writing path and is always on the lookout for interesting topics that pique her interest.



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