Thorsten Distler
MA Translator + Certified Copywriter + Certified Fitness Trainer
Info Zone

Human, CAT, MT or robot: which translates and writes the best?

Allow me to explain the differences between human, computer-assisted and machine translation; between robot and editor. I will also outline what machines can – and cannot – do! MT, CAT and robots have their purposes, applications – and limitations. Beyond these, only a text pro made of flesh and blood can really give you what you need! Generally speaking: the more electrifying and fluid a text is, the less a computer can help.

Want to trigger a certain emotion? To arouse enthusiasm for a top-quality product? Then a creative specialised translator and copywriter of my calibre is the best – and really the only sensible – solution.

The creative expert: your image and sales partner

You’re watching the final on TV – it’s down to the wire! Whose voice would you rather hear now? The reassuring tones of a renowned commentator vividly sharing their emotions with you? Or a computer voice – a machine commentator module that automatically churns out standard phrases according to the state of play? A semi-mechanical voice in machine gun staccato, always an octave out ...

Whether a football final, case study, association magazine or product presentation: marketing comes alive through the emotions it arouses. Not even the most sophisticated of neural networks stands the remotest chance. Truly captivating PR and advertising requires bona fide experts, artists and luminaries.

Want original, emotive content for your sales and brand image? My imagination creates vivid images in your customers’ minds.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for advice on your current project.

The computer as copywriter and translator: a hard-working helper for rough drafts

Machine translation (MT)

The stark contrast to emotive creativity: an impassive, emotionless computer. During straightforward machine translation, the computer has complete control. The system analyses, interprets and portrays all content. This is only recommended when all three of the following conditions apply:
  1. You only want a draft or rough translation.
  2. You have a factual text on a clearly defined subject.
  3. The target text is primarily intended for internal information and communication. So it won’t be made public.
Possible applications: translation of lengthy EU draft laws into multiple languages simultaneously. Or to get the general gist of a newspaper report.

MT produces texts that are 70–80 percent comprehensible – unpolished, stylistically flawed and often containing unintentionally amusing turns of phrase.

I do not offer MT. It simply is not suited to the types of texts and fields I work in.

Computer-assisted translation (CAT)

So-called CAT tools have proven particularly effective in the translation of technical texts. Computer-assisted translation uses bilingual or multilingual databases. Sophisticated algorithms compare the new texts with segments translated previously. Such programs are like hard-working helpers, who assist humans.

The repositories of these CAT tools are known as translation memories. They are filled, maintained and used by experienced language professionals. The software suggests the stored sentence fragments to the specialist as they translate. They then use their expertise to decide: can I use the suggested translation or part of it? Or should I ignore it entirely as the context isn’t quite right? For you, this means specifically: if texts contain countless repetitions, translation memories can save time and money. They are generally also conducive to consistency within your documents.

CAT tools are particularly worthwhile for repetitive or technical texts. In flowing texts or transcreation, CAT tools tend to be a hindrance.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. And can quote you for a job based on mixed texts. A CAT tool such as SDL Trados may well make sense for you – time-wise and financially.

The computer as copywriter: robots and co.

Some PR and advertising agencies already use computer-supported editorial systems. The same applies here as for translation: such digital tools are only suitable for strictly defined subject areas. They are only useful for messages, reports and mundane product data sheets. Only a competent text pro can assist with the following text types:
  1. Blog posts, reports, features, profiles, interviews, commentaries, critiques, essays, etc.
  2. PR texts such as press releases, articles in employee and customer magazines, etc.
  3. Advertising texts such as website copy, posters, billboards, radio advertising, adverts, newsletters, mail-outs, etc.
In short: a human touch is required if a text is designed to boost your brand or revenue. In a worst-case scenario, virtual texts can damage your corporate image and turnover.

Outlook: the computer powerhouse

At present, computers cannot replace humans entirely. It is far likelier that machines will complement the work of humans. And occupy extremely specific niches.

The demand for translations grows year on year. So much so that human language professionals can no longer keep up. This is particularly the case for documents not intended for the public domain. Purely informative EU documents, for instance, or internal communications at major international enterprises. Content with no impact on the company’s reputation or turnover.

Computers are hard-working assistants for handling repetitive and predictable content. A prime example: classic 1:0 match reports stating the basic facts purely for information purposes. MT, robots and co. assist well-trained, highly specialised language service providers. Allowing them to concentrate on important projects critical to the corporate image. In other words: content with a heart and soul. This includes appealing content for paid, owned and earned (POE) media and fluid, well-researched specialist publications that instantly draw readers in.

Don’t rely on computers for your communication. For intercultural communication, commission an expert with a heart and mind. They are a worthwhile investment in your brand.


Want to play on your target audience’s emotions, inspire a purchase or simply impress? Then computers are and remain nothing more than a practical tool – a technical platform for text and data processing. Anything else would be grossly negligent.

Set your course for success. Get me on board, with my flair for finding the right words and perfect timing.
Email me
Or simply call me: +49 940 25042961



A multilingual content guide will haul you to the top of the German-speaking world. Do you have a head for heights? Don’t look down – you might get dizzy. Or gaze in wonder when you see how tiny the competition looks, right down in the valley. Are you up for the adventure?
to top