Human Touch: Why Brands Should Avoid Machine Translation

Have you ever been in a foreign country where you didn’t know the language? Even completing the simplest tasks like ordering food or checking into a hotel can be difficult and frustrating. Now imagine if your daily responsibilities depended on your being able to communicate complex messages in a language that is unfamiliar to you.

Many marketers whose organizations are expanding internationally face this challenge on a daily basis. Luckily for them, tools are available that to help them convey those messages correctly. But which translation tools should marketers use?

Man vs. machine

Anyone who has used Google Translate knows that word-for-word translations can be clunky, hard to read, and fraught with errors. Language can be complex, and when a document or website is translated literally, by machine, what you meant to say and what the consumer actually reads can be completely different. Worth some laughs when translating a pen-pal’s email; not so funny for a professional organization with a brand to protect.

According to a report by the International Journal of English Linguistics, “[M]achine translation can produce unexpected new meanings through unpredictable routes of semantic and syntactic divergences from the source text.” To put it bluntly, machine translations are often wrong, and rarely (if ever) perfect.

As advanced as technology has become over the years, translation is one area where organizations still need the human touch to ensure quality. Human translators can detect the subtle nuances in meaning that machine translators might miss, ensuring the correct messages, with the correct information and intended emotion, are delivered to your audience.

Human translations do take longer and cost more, and alone, lack the scalability and automation of technology. But if you intend for your international efforts to pay dividends in the long run, human translators can provide the quality foundation needed to grow your business internationally.

Technology can still help

One of the main drawbacks of human translation can be the length of time it takes to get copy translated, approved, and published. In the past, the process has been a dumpster fire of spreadsheets and lengthy back-and-forths between the brand and the translators to ensure the quality of the translation is up to standard. But just because machine translation isn’t the best method to translate content, that doesn’t mean that technology can’t help brands streamline the localization process.

In fact, a translation management system (TMS) can automate those manual processes, eliminate spreadsheets, and ensure both the speed and quality of translation. Results will vary depending on your business model and current translation protocol, but your marketing team and developers will appreciate up to 90 percent of their old translation workload being removed with the right hybrid solution.

Organizations that are evaluating TMS to add to an existing marketing tech stack should look for a solution that is flexible, integrates with existing systems like CMS, emarketing solutions, ecommerce platforms and code repositories, and can be customized to meet your brand’s specific needs.

Learn more

Download our White Paper: Translation Strategy Is Growth Strategy and learn what brands need to do to implement a successful translation strategy and discover how that translation strategy is directly tied to business growth.