As translation programs become more widespread, cost-effective, and accessible, many people turn to them thinking they will give a decent, if not excellent translation of a desired message.
However, are these programs up to par with a good human translator? Do they even come close?
The most popular free translation service is undoubtedly Google Translate, simply because it is easy to use and is the first thing that pops up into a search engine when one is looking for help with a translation. And sure, Google Translate can be a great quick fix when you want to translate a quick phrase or the words of an international song you love, but is it really worth using for business?
Here are a few reasons any business should reconsider using Google translate when trying to reach international audiences.
The Problems with Statistical Translation
When you type a phrase into Google Translate, you will likely get a translation based on statistics that are taken from how that phrase has been translated in the past by large organizations, such the United Nations. There are a few major problems with this. First, the tone and style you want to use to promote your business or market a new product are not the ones that international entities like the United Nations are likely using. So you will end up with copy that is dry and unappealing to native speakers—not the best way to draw people to your brand. When you’re trying to create a brand, you need a consistent, appealing tone that truly represents the flavor of your business or product, and this is impossible to get from a translation program.
Second, there is no way that this method can account for dialect or regional slang. The phrases that everyday people use in a local region are not likely to be used by the United Nations, but these sorts of phrases are the ones that draw people to a brand. Think about American advertisements and how full of slang they are. You cannot translate this sort of regional meaning through a machine. Ditto for metaphors. That machine is going to take your metaphor and literally translate it instead of picking a different metaphor in your chosen language that has the approximate meaning. For example, if you use the phrase, “throw the baby out with the bathwater,” in a piece of copy, Google Translate would likely translate that word for word, which would create a horrifying picture for a reader who has no knowledge of that idiom. However, an expert human translator would take this phrase and find an idiom with a similar meaning in the language you are translating your copy into, and your original meaning will be able to cross the language barrier.
Lack of Search Engine Optimization
Recent studies are showing that second language speakers prefer to read websites in their own language if they are available. Because of this, international businesses have begun to translate their websites into the languages of the population they are trying to reach. However, for some reason, businesses who have a great search engine optimization strategy in English often forget about SEO when they translate their copy into a new language.
However, in order for your content to rank well and make an impact for your brand, you need an SEO strategy in the translation language that is just as good as the SEO for the English version of your copy. The problem? Well, Google Translate would have no idea what the top keyword searches for a certain topic would be in a given langue or region. However, an expert translator with a deep knowledge of the trends in a certain language or culture will know exactly which keywords to use to bring visitors to your sight. So if you really want to bring your brand recognition on an international level, an SEO strategy in that language is essential.
One Word: Context
When you use any non-human translation program, it is going to focus on either the statistically prevalent meanings of certain phrases or on the dictionary meanings of individual words. However, all good writers know that the context of a piece is extremely important when choosing how to phrase an idea or when choosing between two words with a similar meaning. Google translate simply has no way of reading for context, but this is something that a human translator can do easily. Therefore, a piece written by a human translator will have a more cohesive tone and a better overall flow than any piece put through Google Translate. This is so important when you are trying to brand a product in a new language, because when you are creating a brand, context is absolutely everything.