This week an online advisor on ecommerce has been recommending machine translation for ecommerce businesses. He took a sample of English – a description of a watch – and ran it through 3 free translation systems into Japanese, then translated them back again into English. The results did not support his case, turning a piece of descriptive language into incomprehensible rubbish!
To add insult to injury, he then suggested that the resultant mess be passed to a human translator for “fixing” – in fact, the work required to “fix” a mess can be just as much as to translate it from the original – sometimes more!
Judge the translations for yourself:
Original text: “This light-up face, water resistance, rugged stainless steel case and digital chronograph watch is truly a companion timepiece.”
Yes, it does sound odd – even before the machines got to it!
After being translated and re-translated, the piece read:
- This write -up , water resistance , robust stainless steel case and a digital chronograph watch is really a companion clock
- This write-up face , water resistance , robust stainless steel case and a digital chronograph watch is really a companion clock
- Watch the face of the light, waterproof, rugged stainless steel case, digital Chronograph watch fellow, really
The translation quality varies from poor to really poor – if you were buying this watch, would you choose the one that describes it as a “clock” or the one that says is it is a “watch fellow, really”? By relying on machine translation, you are losing a key selling area – the product description. A human translator won’t make the obvious errors, and they will also do a much better job conveying the nuances much more clearly.
Ruben commented on the article as follows:
“In your example, you have a watch, described in a way that helps build the customer’s interest and desire. It’s then machine “translated” into component pieces that give nothing of the original flavour of the language. It’s like taking the watch to pieces, then getting someone else to rebuild it without seeing how it was disassembled…
Machine translation is seen as cheap, and “better than nothing”. You have to decide if garbled stuff like the above is going to sell your web items for you.
If the words are not that important, then why have them at all? If they are important, you should give your customers the courtesy of translating into their language what you’d like to see in your own language.
If you take short cuts like this, they’ll see clearly that you’re not that bothered about them”.
Machine translation may be cheaper or even free, but poor translations are a false economy. If you don’t get your point across in your translated brochures or if your marketing materials or website provide inaccurate, misleading or confusing text, that will have negative effects on your ability to sell in other countries.
Translation of brochures, ecommerce websites and marketing materials requires human skills and experience – send us details of your project and we’ll show you why human translations work best!