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Why Trying To Get A Translation For Free Doesn’t Pay Off

There is a vast array of machine translation tools available on the internet, from the likes of Google to Microsoft. Being some of the largest corporations in the business, you wouldn’t be alone in assuming that they offer the most effective and trustworthy translation services available.

One of the key benefits of opting for a machine translation is that they are largely inexpensive and in many cases even free! They work extremely quickly, are widely accessible and are able to translate hundreds of different languages. Sounds too good to be true right? Well, you know what they say, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is… From inaccuracy to a lack of cultural awareness, continue reading to find out why trying to get a translation for free doesn’t always pay off.

Inaccurate translations

One of the largest issues with using machine translation is the lack of accuracy. In many cases, you’re left with low quality, incoherent content that isn’t fit for purpose. A key example of where this poses an issue is within the field of technical translation. Technical documents require the most accurate, careful and high-quality translations, as mistakes in user manuals or safety documentation can have serious consequences. We know how important this is, which is why we always select the most experienced and qualified technical translators for these translations; something a machine translation simply cannot replicate.

Machines can’t translate context

Generally, machine translation tools can only get the general gist of the content, carrying out a word to word translation with a lack of comprehension. These tools fail to understand the creative use of language or context, something which completely changes the overall meaning and feel of a piece of content. On the other hand, a human translator would recognise where literal translation isn’t possible and instead find a suitable alternative.

This drawback to machine translation often leads to the content being translated inaccurately, whilst also losing its original meaning. This is a serious issue when translating marketing and PR material, where that creative flair is particularly required. Human translation offers much more than a direct translation, helping you to get the message across in any language.

No ability to problem solve

It’s human nature to make mistakes, whether we use a wrong word, incorrect spelling or miss out a word entirely. A human translator would use common sense to rectify this within a translation, keeping the meaning of the piece intact. However, a machine would fail to do so. Instead, translating the content word for word, so that it fails to make sense.

Lack of cultural awareness

Whether it’s content for a social media campaign, website content or PR, it’s important to be culturally aware. Machine translation is unable to be culturally sensitive, resulting in inappropriate translations which may go against a culture’s norms and values. The result of this can be disastrous, leaving your marketing campaign with a completely different effect than intended.

Some of the biggest international marketing translation fails we’ve seen are from the likes of KFC and Pepsi. KFC scared off Chinese consumers when “finger-licking good” was translated as “eat your fingers off.” Pepsi’s slogan similarly failed to make a good impact in the Chinese market; “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” was translated to “Pepsi Brings You Back from the Grave.” Instead of being remembered for your failed marketing campaign, make sure you make the right impact on your target market!

Is machine translation always a bad thing?

All of the above being said, that doesn’t mean that machine translation doesn’t have a place in the market. If accuracy isn’t a priority, and you’re only looking for the general meaning, machine translation should be sufficient. Google Translate is also an excellent tool to assist you on your travels. However, when accuracy is required, opting for a translation specialist such as Freeman Williams is imperative. Our in-house staff are highly-qualified, trusted linguists with many years’ experience in the translation industry, and maintain the utmost professionalism and attention to detail.

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