We have been told that machine translation (MT) is the way of the future, and that it has improved significantly. However, Facebook is translating all my Spanish feeds into English for me, so I am getting a pretty good feel for what people have to suffer through.
Here are two examples from a post I saw today:
Source: Se me vence el pasaporte.
MT: I will be beaten by Argentine passport.
Real meaning: My Argentine passport expires.
Source: Si hay maneras de hacer la renovación…
MT: If there are ways to do the renovation…
Real meaning: If there are ways to renew it…
Honestly, this feels like Candidate for a Pullet Surprise. It will go fine, as long as words mean only one thing. However, words have meaning in context! When has anyone been beaten by a passport? That sentence just makes no sense. And when has anyone done a renovation of a passport? I might do a renovation of a kitchen… but not of a passport. That is a renewal.
As a translator, I would not even want to start with MT as a rough draft. Post-edited machine translation (PEMT) is human-improved machine translation. However, you still start with text with so many problems that you are likely to miss important cues and leave a translation that is not clear.
Human translation reviewed by a human translator is still the best solution for any text that has words with two meanings or nuances. Any time you need to communicate clearly, work with a certified human translator.