Machine translation is software that automatically translates languages on websites. Do not confuse it with online translation tools or applications for smartphones. These are tools designed to quickly translate words and short phrases. Machine translation is designed for large volumes of text. It uses pre-programmed computer coding to switch automatically between languages.
The professional approach
Professional websites need professional translation. If you want to sell globally, offering potential customers information in their own language is essential. Whether you’re selling a product or service, you need accurate descriptions of what you offer. Clear instructions on pricing and how to buy will help to seal the deal. Get it right, and you have a new customer. Get it wrong, and that potential sale is lost.
Off-the-shelf machine translation software may seem like a cost-effective way to expand your business reach. But unsupervised translations can convey an inaccurate message. They can be laughable or – at worst – offensive. Ultimately, it’s a false economy that could cost you your reputation.
Style over substance
If you want your messages to be understood in any language, a professional translator is essential. A human will not only be able to identify an incorrect translation, they’ll also ensure that the translation adheres to your organization’s style guides. Presenting a consistent image to all your customers, whatever their language, helps with brand recognition.
Professional translators also have specialist knowledge of the words and phrases used within your organization’s sector. Do you sell in a highly-technical area or rely on a friendly tone of voice to connect with customers? You need a human to translate, edit and proof-read your copy to ensure it hits the mark.
Lost in translation
English is the language of business. However, only 30% of the global population understands it. Online translation tools and smartphone apps have made it easier for people to overcome language barriers. But they are only useful for short words or phrases. Translating words or sentences out of context can result in an entirely different meaning. Your product description, when cut and pasted into a translation app, could produce something unrelated to what you are selling.
Similarly, relying on the ‘translate’ option built into most web browsers may seem like the easy option. But you have no control over the translation. Your carefully worded copy, refined over several drafts, could become meaningless nonsense.
Behind the scenes
It is not just the text on the homepage that needs to be accurately translated. Over one billion people live with some form of visual impairment. They rely on text readers to describe the information on a website. Machine translators simply convert the words on the screen, ignoring any ‘hidden’ text that readers rely on. Professional translators will assess and translate the text used to describe images to ensure it is accurate and understandable.
Web browsers also rely on behind-the-scenes text to analyze your website. Meta tags, headings and keywords all need to be translated for that all-important Search-Engine Optimization (SEO). If you want to be on the front page in every country you operate in, you need to think about much more than just what’s visible to customers.
Care about the community
It’s not just professional businesses who want to sell globally who need to seriously consider professional translation. For public organizations, particularly those operating in areas where there are many nationalities, community translation is essential.
People rely on doctors, hospitals, councils and official authorities for essential services. Even with instructions written in the native language, some procedures can be complicated and difficult to understand. Enrolling a child into a school, registering with a doctor, or even applying for a parking permit can be confusing at the best of times.
For public services, expecting machine translation to accurately describe official procedures doesn’t just mean a lost sale. Badly translated websites could result in very serious consequences for people who don’t understand what’s expected of them.
It may be tempting to download pre-written software to translate your website. But is it a risk you can afford to take?
Contact us today and discover how our translation services can ensure you get it right.