NMT vs LLM: Discussing the differences

nmt vs llm

Not too long ago, we discussed the role of Large Language Models (LLM) in shaping the localization landscape. However, Neural Machine Translation (NMT) systems have been real game-changers and to this day, they remain powerful players in the process of automatic language translation. We know that many businesses are now wondering which approach might be a better fit for their specific needs, so do check our NMT vs LLM article for a non-biased opinion on the matter.

About Neural Machine Translation

Neural Machine Translation is a cutting-edge approach to machine translation that utilizes artificial intelligence’s power. It leverages neural networks, similar to the complex systems that power facial recognition or spam filtering. Instead of relying on predefined rules, NMT trains itself on massive amounts of bilingual text data. This allows it to learn the relationships between words and phrases across languages.

Perhaps the most recognizable example is Google Translate, a language translation tool that utilizes NMT to deliver real-time translations across hundreds of languages. Businesses often use NMT to translate their websites for international audiences, ensuring their products and services reach a wider market. In fact, machine translation is a common feature offered by top localization platforms and translation management systems.

About Large Language Models

Large Language Models are a type of artificial intelligence that can process and generate human language. They’re like super-sophisticated language models that have been trained on massive amounts of text data. Imagine feeding an LLM every book, article, and conversation ever written on the internet. That’s the kind of data they’re trained on.

Popular LLMs include ChatGPT and Google’s Gemini, which are chatbots and virtual assistants powered by AI. But there are other customer service chatbots that leverage LLMs to offer real-time translation support, allowing them to interact with customers across language barriers. Furthermore, companies often use LLMs in social media monitoring and creative content generation.

NMT vs LLM – What’s the difference?

Both NMT and LLMs are revolutionizing how we break down language barriers. But when it comes to translation, they excel in different areas. Here’s why.

Accuracy and focus

NMT specializes in translation. Trained on massive amounts of bilingual data, it focuses on delivering the most accurate and natural-sounding translations possible for a specific language pair. While capable of translation, LLMs are more versatile. Their broader training may lead to fluency, but accuracy for specific languages might not be as high compared to a dedicated NMT model.


NMT is a good fit when translating factual texts like manuals, news articles, or legal documents where precision is key. Additionally, NMT models can be fine-tuned for specific domains like medical terminology, further enhancing accuracy. Of course, you would still need human review and post-editing.

With LLMs, we see that it works better for creative and informal contexts. Need a catchy marketing slogan translated or want to understand the gist of a social media post in another language? LLMs may be able to handle these tasks.

Cost and efficiency

Generally speaking, the lower computational requirements of NMT makes it a more cost-effective option than LLM. By the way, Nimdzi gives us an estimate of the costs of customized NMT. Now, moving on to LLMs, their complex nature often requires more computing power, making them potentially more expensive.


NMT models are typically trained on datasets focused on specific language pairs. This controlled environment reduces the risk of exposure to sensitive information or biases present in broader data sources. LLMs, however, are trained on vast amounts of data from various sources, raising potential data privacy concerns for some users.

To conclude

Ultimately, there’s no real NMT vs LLM battle because it all depends on your specific needs. Both options offer powerful tools to bridge the language gap. NMT excels in delivering high-accuracy translations for specific languages, while LLMs shine in their versatility and ability to handle broader language tasks.

As these technologies continue to develop, we can expect them to work more cohesively. NMT’s precision could be integrated with LLMs’ vast knowledge to create even more nuanced and informative translations. Until then, you may want to give both tools a try to determine what is the right fit for you.

Ready to power up localization?

Subscribe to the POEditor platform today!
See pricing