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Why you should NOT settle for Google Translate

Google Translate is a “quick fix” for translation; it is not meant for professional translation. It is a great tool for an instant translation of words but not so great for phrases. To elaborate, unique expressions and idioms in the source language are translated literally by Google Translate, often losing their flavor in the target language.

For example, the English expression “break a leg” would likely be translated to brisez une jambe in French, while it should be translated as bon courage or bonne chance. Using Google Translate for entire documents can be disastrous for several reasons without proper editing, and without the consultation of a professional translator. In this article, I have elaborated on some of those reasons for your benefit.

If you are a professional, chances are you would rather work with professionals and this is no different when it comes to translation. There is a misconceived notion that translators are simply good at translating text from one language to another. This cannot be further from the truth. In fact, translators are also exceptional writers and have an in-depth knowledge of grammar, semantics, syntax, idioms, etc., which goes way deeper than just a quick spell-check. A translator is generally quick to identify a document that “smells like a translation,” which in fact can be said to be poorly translated. A good translation should appear transparent.

Professionals of all sectors often have a need for technical translation, and the translation process for technical texts includes undertaking research either within a corpus of texts that they have researched and gathered themselves or in terminology bases that are dynamically maintained online or in print. This is more than what Google Translate or any other MT tool can execute. Professional translators are therefore also avid researchers with great attention to detail, capable of exceptionally scrutinizing both source and target language documents.

A professional translator also learns how to make the source text comprehensible for its target audience. To take this a step further, localizing your website, mobile app or product means meeting the cultural norms of your target audience. This refers to localization. English is spoken in many countries, but the use of English varies from one country to another. The simplest example is the differences in the spelling of some words: for instance between Canadian English and US English. (Notice how I avoided the term “American English”? To many, they may both be American English or better classified as North American English, but they still slightly differ in pronunciation, spelling, and vocabulary.)

Such localization in terms of the expressions used or the cultural idiosyncrasies preserved does not only concern texts; very often, this is required for websites, the sale or the digital marketing of products to a specific target audience. Localization goes beyond words and looks at adapting the source content to the culture of the target content. There are strong regional differences to consider, even if both regions speak the same language, though with different variants, such as currency, business approaches, or even consumer habits.

Why is this necessary one might ask? Well, on a grammatical standpoint, a poor text may suggest that you don’t take language too seriously, and this in turn may suggest to your reader that you are not taking them too seriously. A potential client will likely chance upon your website or ad somewhere before making that first phone call to your team. Your written content is, therefore, the first contact your client has with your business. If your content is poorly written, chances are your business will be judged beforehand as one that must be offering poor quality products as well. Much the same way, the dead giveaway of email scams is very often the poor language they are written in.

On a cultural standpoint, while Canadians enjoy a cup of freshly brewed coffee, the Brits would rather have a cup of tea. Knowing the cultural differences, though sometimes subtle, can avoid devastating mistakes. Therefore, you should always seek the services of a professional translator who is native to the culture of your target audience. Generally, all professional translators are well equipped to take the target audience of any text into consideration. Something Google Translate cannot do or even remotely consider.

Google Translate performs a simple substitution of words in the target language, and as emphasized earlier, that alone usually cannot generate a good translation. As a matter of fact, the progress and potential of machine translation have been debated much through its history. Since the 1950s, several scholars have questioned the possibility of achieving fully automatic machine translation of high quality.

Human translation process, on the other hand, may be described as decoding the meaning of the source text and re-encoding this meaning in the target language.

Behind this seemingly simple procedure lies a complex cognitive operation. To decode the meaning of the source text in its entirety, the translator must interpret and analyze all the features of the text, a process that requires strong knowledge of the source language, as well as the culture of its speakers. The translator needs the same profound knowledge to re-encode the meaning in the target language.

Therein lies the challenge in machine translation! Though it works much faster, with no human intervention, no automated translation program or procedure alone, can produce an output that's any close to the quality a professional translator can provide. Even NMT (Neural Machine Translation), the latest technology in machine translation that has shown astounding advancements in recent years, cannot generate a result as flawless as a manually translated and edited document.

Therefore, quality translations can only be achieved by professional translators. Furthermore, a certified translator spends years studying the many facets of translation (technical and general translation, adaptation, transcreation, localization, subtitling, etc.). If your professional translator is not certified, they may be experienced translators, but a certification is a guarantee of their extensive translation knowledge and professional Code of Conduct.

So, while Google Translate may come in handy like many DIY tool kits and projects, it should not be used for professional purposes, and it is even more useless for technical translation because Google Translate does not take any field-specific jargon into account.

A professional translator may also build and manage a company’s Term Base, a database that contains multilingual company or industry-related terms and concepts, as well as a Translation Memory (TM), a database that contains previously translated segments. Such essential tools are widely used by professional translators to translate more efficiently, reduce the translation time, and potentially cut costs for the clients.

While Google Translate may seem cheaper, it will inevitably cost you much more! Get in touch with us for all your translation needs for professional and high-quality results.



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