What is machine translation?

Machine translation Refers to the automatic translation of texts by a computer program.. The two best-known machine translation tools are currently Google Translate and DeepL.

How does machine translation work?

Ideally, good translation software not only provides accurate and natural-sounding translations, but is also easy and intuitive to use. That is why most programmes are designed similarly and have the following features:

The user enters the text he wants to have translated in an input field. The text is translated in the background and the result is displayed in an output field. Different providers use different methods to translate the texts.

Neural machine translation

Both the Google translator and DeepL rely on this machine translation technique. A neural network, i.e. a kind of artificial intelligence, analyses various bilingual texts and tries to recognise and learn the connections between the two languages. These translators can translate not only single words, but longer texts with several sentences. The tools based on neural machine translation are also often more precise than the competition and can form authentic-sounding sentences. Their biggest disadvantage is that the developers of the tools can hardly trace how the learned results came about.

Direct machine translation

Other translators work with direct machine translation, such as Pons or Leo.org. Here are, based on a dictionary, translates individual words from the source language into the target language and stored in the system. When queried, the words are loaded from the system and reproduced in the target language. Direct machine translation was also used to programme the first electronic translators, such as the English-Russian translator of the US military. For single word queries, this technique is advantageous, because if the translations have been neatly stored, the most applicable words are always output. For longer texts, however, this method is not dynamic enough and the translations can quickly appear artificial.

Other machine translation methods

In addition to the methods mentioned above, there are also five other common translation techniques:

  • The Transfer Method
  • The Interlingua Method
  • The example-based machine translation
  • The statistical machine translation
  • Machine translation with human help

Who is currently the best provider for machine translation?

Finally, the question remains as to which translation service is currently the best on the market. It is difficult to measure the linguistic quality of the respective tools, but many established IT magazines agree:

DeepL is a German translation service by the company DeepL GmbH, which is based in Cologne. The translator went online in August 2017 and quickly gained attention for its outstanding and precise translations. With its eloquent and always accurate formulations, DeepL has technically overtaken its biggest competitor to date, Google Translate. The translator also offers the functions of uploading and translating various file types directly via drag-and-drop and using synonyms for various words and phrases.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Machine Translation?


  • Mobile use
  • Often available free of charge
  • Various tools for individual purposes


  • not flawless
  • Choice of words can seem unnatural