Here are some reasons why machine cannot replace human translators.

Machines are replacing humans different areas of the work force, and the technology is only going to get better with time. However, there is no guarantee that machine translation can fully replace human translation. How accurate is machine translation, and can it replace human translators who offer business translation services? The response is quite apparent here. Machine translation can never replace human translators in terms of speed, accuracy, and performance.

Let’s look at some of the obvious reasons why machine translation will never replace humans:

1. A universal machine translation system seems impossible for now

A global machine translation system will require a massive advancement in technology. There are about 7000 languages in the world. Even though machine translation only covered the few hundred major ones, there are still significant obstacles.

Not only does the basic system needs to be programmable with the grammatical structures, laws, and vocabulary of each of the languages concerned, but it will also need to include the rules for translating. This makes the role of human translators critical for businesses and organizations and a more accurate choice.

2. Selecting the correct register

The software program should also be able to identify the right register in each case. This means what the appropriate level of language will be. The translator needs to make excellent decisions in the case of translating from a word from a language with little formality, such as English, into one of the far more complicated formalities. A human interpreter and translator has years of practice with this.

3. Language evolution: new and changing words and meanings

Languages evolve continuously. They now have ideas and words that did not exist 10 or 20 years ago. Many words change their meaning and are not used in the old sense anymore. With every new product, service, and every new scientific discovery, our language also develops. Human translators are more aware and adaptable to these changing dynamics of languages than machines unless the latter are continuously programmed to do so.

4. Language evolution: syntax shift

Not just words shift, but our grammar will evolve. Words which 20 years ago were not common are now part of the everyday language. The use of contractions is now standard practice, and in many cases, considered correct. English language students are no longer taught that the written form is “do not” and “don’t” is the spoken form. Again, this is one area where human translators are much more competent than machines unless the machines are continuously programmed to perform this task, which takes enormous effort.

5. Language evolution: knowledge of the past of language

It will be essential to configure machine translation software with the modern definition and usage of words. Therefore, the systems need to “learn” the whole vocabulary history and its use. Last but not least, the software will need the ability to understand the age and time period from which a text originates.

6. Keeping the software updated

It is evident that even though a 100 percent perfect machine translation system could be written theoretically, this would rely on continuous updates to the software. Only a team of programmers, translators, and experts could accomplish this enormous mission. They will spend their entire working life, updating the system with language laws, grammar rules, vocabulary, implementation guidelines, and translating all of these from one language into all the others.

It is difficult to write a program that can translate all subjects under the sun in every detail and for every situation without any further input.

7. Machines cannot match the versatility of a human mind

Machine translations get pretty good at translating engineering manuals, which follow a structured logic. Language, however, has no explicitly specified criteria and is somewhat fluid, and has a personal touch. It has multifaceted meanings and emotional undertones, underpinned by so many cultural perceptions, and it is continually changing.

Texts not only convey knowledge, but they also convey emotions, humor, puns, and poetry. It can be difficult for machine translations to identify this and translate it with accuracy.


Machine translation has come a long way in a short time, but it still has a long way to go. These are the things that make professional human translation successful for day-to-day business use. Work with professional translation services to get the most accurate translation for your projects.

About the Author
Beth Worthy is the President at GMR Transcription, overseeing client relations, human resources and new business development to accomplish the company’s mission and goals.

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