Using machine translation ? Think again - you may ruin your brand and company reputation with your own hands

By Slava
Aug 10, 2009 · 3 min
Recent developments in the area of automatic translations have been creating a buzz, mainly because automatic translation technology has became free and available on the web. Large providers such as Google, Microsoft and Systrans have released automatic translation as a free web service available through gadgets and APIs. And it has now become popular for web content providers to use these tools to distribute their content. They install translation plug-ins on their website and allow their content to be quickly and easily translated and distributed in other languages, without considering the possible damage being done to their brand and business. One such example is a large French newspaper that distributes local automatically translated versions of its content. Machine translation is indeed a great promise. The temptation to save costs on professional translation services and address more audience is big. But make no mistake: it will take a lot of years until machine translation will be able to match human translation quality. The main reason is that machines cannot yet be programmed to overcome the context barrier. That complex thing can be done today by the human brain solely. Some dare to say computers will never be able to imitate how our brain perceives and processes language. In the meanwhile, the technology should be used carefully - both by the content provider and by the end consumer. Machine translation providers behave irresponsibly by not publishing in bold places severe warnings of possible negative outcomes that may result from using machine-based translation. This warning should also be made when machine translation is exhibited on websites, to protect the content consumer. Content providers mustn't assume that their content consumers know that machine translation was used to deliver their content, or even understand what machine translation is. In many cases, content consumers simply think that the content is badly written and see the result as an insult. In this case, bad translation simply ruins the content provider brand - may it be e-commerce website, online newspaper or a personal blog. While professional translators are a necessity companies cannot live without for many of their international operations – many often choose to do so anyway. Most translators spent years studying and perfecting their craft, honing their expertise and making a respectful living from it, it makes little sense that a machine can read and understand the small nuances of a language, the tone that comes through when words are put together. Many translators develop specializations and become experts in the areas of legal, medical, IT, or technical translations, and even then, some projects call for a secondary translator or editor who can examine the quality and standard of the work, restyle if necessary and assure there are no grammatical errors. Translation services may be a little costly, but its money well spent when considering the importance of the text and messages you are trying to convey, and the brand and reputation of the company conveying them.


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