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Machine Translation vs. Computer-Assisted Translation

Posted by Anne Q. on November 22, 2019.

For many people, the terms “Machine Translation” and “Computer-Assisted Translation” sound the same. And they have the words “machine” and “computer” so they must have something to do with automatic translation (just like Google Translate). But is that true?  Well, the truth is, “Machine Translation” and “Computer-Assisted Translation” are far from similar.

Let’s start by finding out these terms’ definitions:

    • Machine Translation is a tool or software that does all the translating tasks automatically from one language to another. No human involvement in the translating process is needed. The machine does it all for you. Google Translate, Bing Translator, or Yandex Translate to name a few are translation machines that millions of people are using.


    • Computer-Assisted Translation (or CAT), on the other hand, is software designed for translators to use throughout the translating process. Human translators take charge of translating, reviewing, and proofreading on the platform of CAT Tools. The aim of CAT tools is only to help translators improve their productivity and the quality of translations, not to take over translators’ jobs.CAT-Tools

I am sure you can tell the difference between these two concepts now. But that’s not enough information for you to decide when to use Machine Translation and when to use Computer-Assisted Translation. So let’s dig deeper into their advantages and disadvantages.

Machine Translation Computer-Assisted Translation
Time If you need to translate a document, all you have to do is to paste the text into translation machines and wait 1-2 seconds for the translation. Super easy and quick, right?

Instant results are no doubt the best benefit of using machine translation.

CAT Tools own some significant features that help translators work much faster than those who use no tools. The CAT Tools’ Translation Memory and Termbase that restores the previous translations, or the bilingual format that allows translators to compare the source and target versions at the same time contribute to the higher performance of translators.
Accuracy Languages are highly complex and dynamic. Languages also relate to unique cultures and social norms that computers cannot understand. Therefore, the lack of accuracy is the biggest disadvantage of machine translation. You might receive an unnatural and incorrect translation.

These translations are usually required post-edited by a human to guarantee acceptable quality.

Since CAT tools only play as assistance for translators, the quality of translating projects rely mostly on the translators. Translators from professional translation agencies or freelancers are well-trained and highly qualified. Thus, you can guarantee the accuracy of the translation.

Besides, human understands the context and social norms so you don’t have to worry too much about word use or grammar of the translated text.

Cost There are a great number of free machine translation programs such as Google Translate, Linguee, iTranslate, etc. that give you an instant translation. If your volume is high, you might have to purchase the paid versions of these tools.

The price is significantly lower than that for hiring translators or using CAT Tools.

CAT Tools are not available for free, either are translators who use them. So you have to pay some money for a good quality translation.

But you know, you get what you pay for.

Best use for Machine translation should only be used for understanding the gist of a text. Any formal documents, both internal and external should be translated by human translators with the help of CAT Tools for the best outcomes.


If you are still unsure about whether to use machine translation or human translators with the help of CAT Tools for your upcoming translation project, get a free 1:1 consultancy with our localization experts.

GTE Localize is a professional translation and localization agency that provides high-quality language solutions for all major languages in the world. We offer both machine translation and human translation (CAT Tools and other technology are applied for all projects).


Let our team help you get closer to your global audiences!