Should You Use Google Translate for Your Company’s Translations?
If you’ve ever seen a short piece of text in another language and wondered what it meant, or wanted to send a brief, basic message to someone in a language you don’t speak fluently, you’ve likely used or considered using a free translation tool such as Google Translate.
While these free tools won’t capture the meaning of complex text, cultural nuances, or maintain 100% grammatical accuracy, they can be perfect for things like understanding the basic idea of a conversation or text.
Because of their efficacy in these situations, it may be tempting to utilize these types of tools for the translations your company wants to use in another country, or to target a non-English-speaking audience.
However, while these tools certainly have their usefulness in some situations, they’re not appropriate for professional translations, and they definitely cannot take the place of qualified, professional human translators.
The ability to correctly maintain both the meaning and the intended message of your text’s subject is something, at least at this point in time, that can only be accomplished by professional human translators.
We know how important it is to make a good impression and deliver accurate information to your customers.
Your organization’s brand and the accuracy of your translated materials may be at stake if you rely on free translation tools to translate content for your audience.
How do machine translation tools work?
To appreciate why these translation tools are not the right fit for your company’s translations, it’s helpful to understand how they work.
In a nutshell, machine translation (MT) utilizes software to translate speech or text into another language.
With the automated services available to most people today, you can paste your English text into a site like Google Translate and immediately have a version of that text in whatever language you’ve chosen as the output.
The text is typically translated word for word, based on terms found online from multiple sources, including dictionaries and web results with those terms in the target language.
If you’ve ever seen one of these renderings on social media or elsewhere, then you know that the results are often unintelligible or even laughable.
Should you use free translation tools like Google Translate for your company’s translations?
No. Use a professional translation service instead.
Automated machine translation such as Google Translate is unable to identify all of the nuances of a language and often makes errors involving both the grammar and vocabulary of the target language.
If you’ve ever used the Google Translate button to translate a non-English website into English, it was likely very obvious that the translation was automated and not handled professionally by a native speaker.
If you can tell when you’re reading an automated translation, so can your customers.
This type of translation does not capture the true original message, even if we can sort of make out what the proper words should have been, some of the time.
Who wants to make their clients work that hard to understand their intended message?
The process of taking your message, breaking down its intended meaning, understanding the nuances of your ideas and messages, and putting it all back together in another language is complex.
Since your organization values its branding and professionalism, it is important to have your content translated professionally.
How machine translation can damage your brand
Machine translation removes the human translator from the equation. And not in a good way.
Your translated text should read as if it were written specifically for your target audience, and not as though it is a translation.
Customers appreciate and identify with a company that makes the effort to engage with them in their own language correctly.
If your text reads like it’s a translation, or is full of errors caused by machine translation, your audience will notice, and you’re likely to lose their attention and trust.
Depending on the type of text, using free translation tools can also have legal ramifications.
If you’re a food vendor, for example, and your label includes a mistranslation of the allergy warnings, this could have major legal ramifications for you if one of your customers falls ill.
Similarly, there could be potential legal issues if one of your workers gets hurt on the job because safety signs are translated incorrectly.
It is simply not worth the risk to your customers and employees to rely on machine translation.
Machine translation also has a negative impact on your SEO, if used for your multilingual website.
Google prides itself on bringing users valuable search results that will be helpful. If content is poorly translated or obviously run through a free translation tool, Google will actually penalize the site’s rankings, making it less likely that the people you’re trying to reach will even find your site among search results at all.
Google also uses artificial intelligence (AI) to generate a ranking algorithm that determines which results to rank higher and display when someone searches for content related to what you’re sharing. After all, they do not want incorrect translations cluttering up search results for users who are genuinely seeking information.
The benefits of a professional translation
Using a qualified translation team, or working with a professional translation agency, will help your company avoid the potential pitfalls of free machine translation.
Professional translation agencies use a wide variety of qualified linguists to translate and proofread your content.
Linguists who specialize in your content type will be utilized to deliver the best possible translation for you.
Instead of reading a text laden with errors from automated translation, your readers will appreciate a text that appears to be written specifically for them.
This helps build trust and rapport with your audience, which contributes to a positive return on investment (ROI), eventually converting them into long-term readers and paying customers.
When are free translation tools beneficial for your company?
Free translation tools have their place outside of professional translations.
Machined translation can work well for short texts without a lot of complexity. It could be a tool you use for deciphering a quick email or social media or blog comments in languages you don’t understand, for example.
That’s not to say what you’re reading will be without error. But for texts that don’t include a lot of complexity, you should be able to at least understand the gist of what is being communicated.
You could also use these types of free translation tools while traveling if you need to ask simple questions like where the nearest restroom in the international airport is.
Outside of these types of uses, we recommend relying on professionals to make sure your brand is represented appropriately and in a way that will benefit you long-term, leaving you to continue delivering accurate information to your costumers.