Machine vs. Native Speaker vs. ProfessionalThe Translation Showdown

Choosing the right translation option will make or break your localization efforts. At present, there are 3 major options in the industry, and you should carefully weigh their benefits and drawbacks before you decide which one will best suit your business.

Professional Translation

Professional translators have a linguistics degree, and are actively seeking and building experience. They sometimes may be accredited through their country’s regulating body for translation.

Benefits and drawbacks

Professional translation is the highest quality for the highest price. Professional translators are experts in dealing with complex wording and delivering translations that reflect your company’s brand. It is a great option for specialized, complex, or technical content.

Having high quality translations is essential for business content (such as your company website and customer service information), and international SEO efforts. However, for companies with thousands of pages of content and inflexible deadlines, professional translation can be cost-prohibitive.


Although professional translation is more expensive than other options, it is almost always the best investment. Professional translation is crucial for any high-value content, and companies usually save money by having the translation done right the first time.

Native Speaker (Crowdsourcing)

Anyone who is fluent in two or more languages and would like to try their hand at translation is a native speaking translator. Native speakers are crowdsourced by translation agencies and freely call themselves translators, though they rarely have qualifications or experience.

Benefits and drawbacks

At first glance, native speaker translation is a dream come true. It is dramatically cheaper and faster than using professional translators, and the likelihood of disastrous mistakes is a lot lower than with Machine Translation.

The reality is that not every bilingual person can translate well. Anyone can call themselves a native speaking translator, and without standards of training and experience, you never really know what you are getting. They are usually paid less than U.S. minimum wage, which speaks to the dedication and quality you can expect.


For companies with lots of content to be translated into many languages, native speaker translation can be a viable option - as long as the content is not high-value. If your content is confidential or full of complex terminology, never use crowdsourced native speakers.

Machine Translation

Machine translation (MT) relies on computer algorithms and statistical document analysis to produce instant translations. It has been made popular by engines such as Google Translate and is quick and cost-effective way to translate between most language pairs.

Benefits and Risks

What MT offers in speed and price it lacks in reliable quality. It may seem intelligent, but in reality MT has zero understanding of the content or context - it is following a set of instructions and choosing the most likely translation option. Though MT can translate simple phrases effectively, when given complex texts it usually produces translations riddled with contextual errors.


Using MT for business purposes is rarely recommended, and often advised against. Some companies are tempted to use human editing to correct MT mistakes, but this is an inefficient strategy - editing the machine translation could cost as much as if it was written by a human in the first place, and will be a lower quality result.

Also, most MT services do not offer data privacy, so any legal or confidential information will be jeopardized.


Each of the 3 translation options has its benefits and risks, and assessing these carefully is the key to reaching and converting new customers.