The Pros and Cons of Machine Translation (Google Translate)Posted by sabrina
Google and others have developed software that we in the translation business call “machine translation.” The software instantly translates emails, documents and websites into a number of other languages. At first glance this is very helpful, but at second glance, not so much.
Here’s a simple illustration: My company’s slogan is “Helping businesses anywhere do business everywhere.” I translated it into a few languages and then translated it back to English. Here’s the result:
French — Help businesses everywhere do business anywhere.
Korean — Business, helping companies everywhere.
Chinese — Help businesses abound business anywhere.
The French is acceptable; the Korean has discernable meaning; the Chinese, the most common non-English language spoken at homes in Vancouver, is reduced to nonsense.
For simply figuring out what something means, machine translation works great. But the minute it is used for any meaningful correspondence, promotional material, or website text it is not reliable. You are in grave danger of saying something inappropriate or appearing not to know what you are talking about.
The solution is to hire a skilled translator. Translators and translation companies have careful processes that include translating, proofing and editing. They even have software to help. These programs do not, however, do any translating. They simply record each word or phrase in a database. Once translated the common words are used again, saving money, ensuring consistency and not duplicating effort.
If you need to figure something out, Google translate is a great tool; if you have to write back, you really can’t be sure exactly what you are saying. Best advice: hire a translator. It costs a lot less than you think and if you are in business, you won’t lose a client because you inadvertently wrote something you didn’t mean.
Have you thought about offering your web site in more than one language?