One of the most important features a good website should have, is wide accessibility to a broad audience, from different cultures, countries and languages. In an increasingly multilingual world, it is vital to be able to communicate your content, products and services succinctly and within the right context.
When it comes to translation, there has always been a long-standing debate between the benefits of using language translation services, or “auto-translate”, versus manual translation, through bilingual native speakers, and experienced professionals in a particular field. Manual translators are usually also seasoned editors, who have worked extensively with texts in both the source and target language.
However, choosing the mode of translation still greatly depends on the kind of website content, and specific product or service being communicated. This is a highly delicate choice, with no “one size fits all” solution. There are several parameters, such as content, product, audience, target language and technical knowledge involved, to be considered, before deciding whether to opt for a language translation service or manual translation.
Another very important consideration, while selecting a translation mode, is the purpose for which it is being carried out. Is it for a company’s internal processes, or meant for the final consumer? Is it only being used for the partial translation of bulk content, or the entire text? Will a human translator be supplementing it, or further editing the final product? These are only a few of the various questions to be asked while selecting a mode.
Furthermore, the cost or repercussions of mistakes also have to be seriously dwelled upon, to evaluate whether 100% accuracy is strictly needed or not. Based on that, an appropriate mode should be chosen.
Language translation services have seen an unprecedented rise lately, with many website creators turning towards them. They simplify the translation of long and often very technical website content. Several translation services such as Google Translate, Skype Translator and Bing Translator, to name a few, are thus taking center stage right now.
Auto-translate is often faster, a lot cheaper and more convenient for many companies and website creators, who may not always have the means or time required to hire a human translator. There are several free or very cheaply available language translation services or tools, which can be used for a variety of projects. Furthermore, translation apps and services are constantly adding new features and becoming more sophisticated, to be able to anticipate demand, and new complexities.
Users can also use one language translation service to translate or switch between several languages at once, at no extra cost, which is not possible with a human translator. As such auto-translate, is a very popular choice for when there is bulk content which needs to be translated quickly and cheaply into several different languages.
It is also used for cases where the text is already fairly straightforward and simple, and there is no need for very nuanced, or complex translations, but only the general meaning and intent. In other words, where 100% accuracy may not always be required, as long as the general gist is understood. This works well in cases where the user is already somewhat familiar with the target language, and can make a calculated or contextual estimation at deciphering the unfamiliar parts.
This also works well in cases where auto-translate is used in conjunction with human or manual translation. Thus, a language service is used to translate the bulk of the text, whereas a human translator refines the final product to include nuanced, idiomatic and contextually relevant aspects, and smoothen out any jarring elements. This ensures that the finished text reads as smoothly and naturally as possible, as if it was initially written in the target language.
Companies often use auto-translate for internal processes, or for additional research, where the content is not meant for the final audience.
However, despite the many benefits of language translation services, they are not suitable for all kinds of content. A lot of translation services are still sometimes too literal, and translate word-for-word, instead the actual intent and meaning of a sentence. This lack of nuance and colloquialism often leads to wildly inaccurate translations, which can be disastrous in some cases. Thus, for highly delicate, and technical information, such as heavy machinery manuals, aviation guides, pharmaceuticals and so on, a human translator is crucial. This is because, any mistranslation in this kind of content may lead to severe injury or a loss of life, so the risk is considerably more.
On the other hand, human translators are more able to interpret creative and idiomatic language uses, such as puns, metaphors, irony and so on. They also do not translate literally, or word-by-word, but can capture the overall meaning of the source text and reproduce it in the best possible way in the target language. This makes for better flow, rhythm and naturalness, where the quality of the target language is not compromised by jarring and unwieldy text. They can also spot the areas where a corresponding phrase is not available in the target language, and make an appropriate choice. Thus they are more suited for either creative texts, such as novels and plays, or highly technical and delicate material, such as instruction manuals.
As such, most of the time, higher quality is achieved by using a human translator, even at extra cost and more time. However, most of the time, a human translator will be restricted in the number of languages they are fluent in, which may prompt users to go through translation agencies instead of independent translators or freelancers.
An experienced professional translator, who is either a native or fluent speaker of both languages, will also constantly be trying to improve upon the quality of the text, and may use all the resources available to them. They may also consult other translators and peers to further refine and polish the work. However, with a language translation service, the resources are quite limited, and the end product cannot really be improved upon.
Furthermore, some exceedingly complex languages such as Arabic or Mandarin Chinese have so many intricacies, ways of speaking, meanings and usages, that they really cannot be entirely understood or interpreted by translation apps, leading to several mistakes. Translation apps are thus more suited to comparatively easier languages such as English, French, Spanish and so on.
Thus, whether you should use auto-translation for your website content, entirely depends on the above factors, such as purpose, type of content and language, as well as the budget and time available to you.
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