Translation technology has come a long way in recent years with programs like Google Translate being able to translate entire web pages in an instant, free of charge. But at times machine translation programs lack the ability to discern nuance in the content and produce rigid and sometimes inaccurate translations. For example, it was recently reported that a bug in Google Translate caused the ‘Russian Federation’ to be translated as ‘Mordor’. If left unchecked, such snafus risk causing political conflicts even Tolkien may have avoided.
Fortunately, there are a number of translation options for brands to choose from, but deciding which is right for your business and objectives is easier said than done. To make the decision a little easier, the pros and cons of four common translation options are explored below:
As mentioned above, machine translation is fast and inexpensive, especially if you use freeware like Google Translate. The major downside to machine translation is the quality can’t be guaranteed – in fact, some would argue that only the lack of quality can be guaranteed. Quality can be improved however by identifying key words, phrases and proper nouns (like product names) that machine translation might not initially catch.
Machine translation shouldn’t be used to translate high value content, such as your websites, landing pages, and marketing emails. But it can be a useful tool to translate high volume low priority content quickly, and a post-editor can clean up the copy on higher priority content to catch errors the program may have made, but this adds additional costs.
Crowdsourcing can be an effective way to translate content, but your brand needs to have built up a passionate community with active members who are willing to sacrifice their own time to produce the translations. Not all brands have a large enough community to support this kind of translation, but for those that do, involving your community in crowdsourcing projects can foster brand loyalty, in addition to receiving valuable translation and localization services.
The major downsides to a crowdsourced translation project are inconsistency in translated content and brand voice, and lack of control over deadlines. After all, crowdsourced translators are unpaid volunteers who can come and go as they please.
Your organization most likely has bilingual employees that help you meet some of your translation needs. This method may offer you quality that is good enough for the task, and depending on the number of employees, can be relatively quick. But you run the risk of alienating or overburdening employees who are tasked with working on these projects – especially if it is outside the scope of their day-to-day duties. This approach to translation is best kept for low volume content that has a short shelf life, or ad hoc tasks such as verifying the quality of content produced by a new translator.
Professional translators offer you the highest quality of translation, but it is the most expensive method. On its face, using professional translators seems like it would be significantly slower than machine translation. But when you factor in the time spent revising machine translated content – or the ultimate failure of poor quality, ineffective content – the time advantage evaporates.
Because professional translators deliver the highest quality translations, they should be used to translate your most important customer facing content, like your website, marketing emails, and landing pages.
Streamline with technology
The good thing about all of these different translation approaches is you don’t have to pick just one. You can mix and match among all of them to ensure you have full coverage for all your translation needs. Regardless of which methods you decide to implement, you should also adopt a translation management platform to help you manage the process.
A good translation management system will:
- Simplify and streamline translation
- Eliminate a vast majority of manual tasks
- Give you better visibility and control over all of your translation projects
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