4 Reasons You Should Have a Professional Translate Your Materials

Professional Translator

In the age of Google Translate and other advanced translation technologies, it can be tempting to use computer-generated translations instead of hiring a professional translator. After all, they are instantaneous, free, and more or less accurate… right?


Language is Not an Algorithm

Languages were developed to communicate meaning. We use words to try and give other people access to our thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

If you have ever tried to use Google Translate to understand a text in a foreign language, you probably encountered some glaring errors. Some languages are more formulaic and easier to translate, and some are more difficult, but all languages are born out of a specific context that a computer will never be able to grasp. They are intricately tied in to the culture and social environment of their speakers. They are organic, breathing, constantly evolving entities, and cannot be reduced to simple algorithms.

Communication of meaning can only happen between individuals who can conceive of that meaning. Computers can’t do that.

You Need Professional Eyes

You might feel that you are proficient enough in the target language to spot obvious errors. Or you may have a native speaker on your team, and believe that it will be enough to have that person approve of the translation. The problem is, not all native speakers make good proofreaders, and if you’re not a native speaker yourself, you will have no way to know this. I have seen a number of nonsensical translations that were somehow approved by people claiming to be native speakers. All the more so, it is not enough to be proficient in a language; you need to be able to write well in it. This means you must have a mastery of the grammar, spelling, and punctuation. Not everyone who speaks a certain language has sufficient knowledge of those things.

Errors Lose You Customers

As a native speaker of a minority language in my country, nothing makes me feel more alienated as a customer than being provided a bad translation. It gives me the sense that the company does not have my needs or interests in mind, and doesn’t care enough about me (or the customer base that speaks my language) to provide an adequate translation. It comes off as cheap and unprofessional. I am much more likely to choose a product or service with a good translation than one with a bad one.

Errors Cause Misunderstandings

Copy is often your primary form of communication with your customers. You work hard to produce copy that is clear and crisp and communicates your message well. Your copy provides information to the customer about your product or service: what it’s for, how to use it, its conditions, any risks or problems they might have with it, etc. This is very important information, and if it is not communicated properly, this can result in confusion and misuse. In some industries, such as medicine and pharmacy, misunderstandings can be dangerous. It is crucial to make sure your customers understand what they are reading.

At the end of the day, the results of a bad translation will end up costing you a lot, both in business and in reputation. That’s why it’s worth investing up front in a high-quality, professional translation.

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