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AI Translation or Machine Translation: What’s the difference?

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Verity Hartley at LanguageWireVerity Hartley , Marketing Specialist, LanguageWire ||  Reading Time: 4 minutes

While AI translation represents a significant leap forward in the field of machine translation, it shares common ground with its predecessors. At its core, both AI translation and traditional machine translation methods aim to facilitate cross-linguistic communication by automatically converting text from one language to another.

However, what distinguishes AI translation is its utilization of advanced neural networks and deep learning algorithms, enabling it to surpass the limitations of earlier approaches. This article explores the evolution of machine translation, highlighting how AI translation builds upon and enhances the foundations laid by its predecessors to redefine the way we break down language barriers in the modern world.

AI Translation vs Machine Translation

AI translation and machine translation are terms that are often used interchangeably in discussions about automated language translation technologies. However, there are nuanced differences between the two, primarily in terms of the technology and methodologies they employ. Understanding these distinctions is crucial for appreciating the advancements in the field of language translation and the capabilities of current technologies.

Machine Translation (MT)

Machine Translation refers to the use of software to translate text or speech from one language to another without human intervention. Historically, MT has evolved through several stages, each marked by different approaches and technologies:

Rule-Based Machine Translation (RBMT)

This approach relies on a comprehensive set of linguistic rules and bilingual dictionaries. It translates by analysing the source text based on these rules and then applying the corresponding rules in the target language. While RBMT can be highly accurate for languages with a limited scope and well-defined rules, it struggles with the complexity and variability of natural language.

Statistical Machine Translation (SMT)

SMT models translations based on the analysis of large amounts of bilingual text data. It uses statistical methods to predict the likelihood of certain words or phrases being a correct translation. SMT marked a significant improvement over RBMT, offering more flexibility and better handling of languages with less rigid structure. However, it still faced challenges with context, idioms, and linguistic nuances.

AI Translation

AI Translation is an advanced translation technology. It incorporates artificial intelligence, especially deep learning, and neural networks, to model the entire process of translation in a way that mimics human brain functions.

Here are the key features that distinguish AI translation:

Contextual Understanding

Unlike its predecessors, AI translation can consider the entire context of a sentence or paragraph, rather than translating piece by piece. This holistic approach allows for more accurate and natural translations, especially in complex or ambiguous situations.

Continuous Learning Capabilities

AI systems are designed to learn and improve over time. By analysing vast datasets and learning from corrections, AI translation models continually refine their understanding of languages, idioms, and cultural nuances. This self-improvement aspect is a hallmark of AI technology.


AI translation models can be adapted and specialized for different domains (e.g., legal, medical, technical) much more effectively than traditional MT systems. They can learn the specific vocabulary and stylistic preferences of a field, leading to higher quality translations in specialized areas.

AI Translation is Machine Translation Evolved

While machine translation laid the groundwork for automated language translation, AI translation has significantly advanced the field. The key differences lie in AI translation's ability to understand and translate text in context, learn from interactions, and improve over time. These capabilities make AI translation a more dynamic, accurate, and effective tool for overcoming language barriers, especially in professional and specialized setting.



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