Can free machine translators do what paid ones can? The answer is simple – no!

Tereza Verbíková

Tereza Verbíková

17. 6. 2024

The phrase artificial intelligence (AI) is now being discussed everywhere and it is impossible to avoid it. Modern technology has advanced to such an extent that it can be effectively used even in such a sophisticated field as translation undoubtedly is.

Specifically, we are talking about so-called machine translation (MT).

To make it easier to understand, you can imagine it as a software that generates automatic translations using artificial intelligence based on neural networks. Its undeniable advantage is that it can process a huge amount of text in a very short time.

When you search for the term "machine translation" in a search engine, you will find many different tools - both free and paid. However, in terms of output quality and other aspects, free and professional translators differ significantly. Let's take a closer look at the biggest differences.

Information security is an issue that more and more companies need to take seriously.

There is virtually no industry that does not address this topic. Naturally, the question has to be asked: “How is the use of AI/artificial intelligence addressed in terms of security?” If someone entrusts their texts to a publicly available machine translator, they should be aware that their data will likely be accessed by third parties and, in extreme cases, may be misused. These types of tools save the texts entered into them and learn from them. However, if you turn to professionals who use professional solutions for translations, your data will be secure, and its confidentiality will be contractually guaranteed.

Handling a single sentence often won't be an obstacle for any translator. However, if the volume of texts to be translated is larger, you may encounter the limits of free tools. This varies from case to case (for example, Google Translate has a limit of 5,000 characters). With paid software, which is also used by translation agencies, this concern is eliminated as it can process an unlimited number of words.

Anyone who already collaborates with a translation agency and thus benefits from the advantages of translation tools should not stray from this method of working.

The reason is simple - free translators do not allow integration. Thus, it is not possible to use translation memory or established terminological dictionaries, and translations of new texts will not be consistent with older ones.

This actually relates to another point where free and professional translators differ. And that is quality. While a professionally performed machine translation (MT) service provides the customer with a document of quality comparable to a human translation, outputs from public translators can contain very serious errors. They translate without considering context and cultural nuances. As a result, they can produce nonsensical translations, like the ones below.


ADULT SENSITIVE LAMB - DOSPĚLÉ SENZITIVNÍ JEHNĚČÍ (Referring directly to the animal instead of flavor)

FLIRT Bremsbelag – KOKETNÁ brzdová doska (FLIRTING brake pad)

Kollisiongefahr mit Stößelpodest – Nebezpečí kolize s pórem beranu (Danger of collision with a pore in the ram)

Eat light – Sněz světlo (EAT A LIGHT)


In the first two cases, it was animal feed, which, as you can see, the AI was not able to take into account. And although these examples may seem humorous, there are texts and situations where such errors are no laughing matter. For instance, with technical documentation, the risk is even higher because the text might appear correct at first glance. However, it can contain a critical error that could, among other issues, lead to endangering the user's health.

Don't risk serious mistakes or the leakage of sensitive data and hand your texts to professionals.

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