Wikipedia defines machine translation as: “the use of software to translate text from one language to another without the aid of human translators.” In the simplest terms, you give your text to a computer, and the second version of your text comes in another language, hopefully with fewer mistakes.
Machine translation provides an excellent resource for businesses that need to save money on translations and for anyone who needs to communicate with people speaking other languages. However, it can also be a huge source of confusion.
If you’re using machine translation on your website or any content you have, here are some ways that it can mess up your brand’s message:
Machine translation mangles abstract concepts
The first problem with machine translation is that it often has trouble with concepts that aren’t concrete. For example, if you’re selling a product that helps people overcome shyness or anxiety, a word like “confidence” or “self-esteem” might not translate properly because they’re abstract concepts. This can lead to some pretty awkward situations where you end up inadvertently advertising something different than what you intended—and that’s never good for business!
Machine translation loses cultural meaning
When you’re trying to translate a phrase or sentence from one language into another, the context matters—and machine translation doesn’t have any clue what context means. It can’t understand how certain words might sound weird or strange when used together in a particular order or situation. The loss of cultural meaning affects businesses that rely on translators to communicate with clients from other countries. Businesses that use machine translation will often find that their messages are garbled or misinterpreted by the recipients, which could lead to lost sales or worse.
Machine translation has no sense of humor
If you’re trying to communicate something funny, like a joke or a pun, you might find that machine translation just doesn’t get it. If your company relies on using humor in its marketing materials or other communications, this could be a big problem for you.
Machine translation doesn’t know what your company’s about
Machine translation only works with words—it doesn’t have any idea what those words mean in a larger context. That means if you’re posting on social media about your company, the message you’re trying to convey might get lost because the tool will translate your post without any knowledge of your business.
Machine translation can be useful for non-native speakers who want to learn another language, but it’s not the best option for professional translations. Your message will lose some of its nuances and, worse, maybe even some of its cultural context. And that can be bad for your brand image. So if you want to translate a document for your brand’s purposes, consider hiring a professional translation company that works with native expert teams in the target language and understands your target audience’s culture and language.