Google Translate is far better than it used to be. Go back a couple years and machine translation results were still laughable. Today, neural machine translation has radically improved technology’s ability to produce nuanced translations very quickly. But are the results sophisticated enough for you?
For the times when they are–and when they aren’t–let’s look at four different ways to translate. Which is right for your company? Which best helps you meet your business objectives?
Pros: Machine translation is fast and inexpensive, especially when you use freeware like Google Translate.
Cons: Quality still varies. Machine translation is garbage in, garbage out. If you take time to appropriately train an MT engine with the proper keywords, past translations, and context, results can be better than working with a human translator. But that said, if you don’t have or use the right data, garbage out.
Advice: Keep away from machine translation for high value content or legal documents. If you do use MT for highly-nuanced or sensitive materials, always ask a professional human translator to review. Do use machine translation to translate high-volume, low-priority content like less frequented pages on your website, user generated content, or reviews. MT is also great for projects that require turnaround in almost real time.
Pros: Crowdsourced translation is a solid way to mobilize user communities. It turns customers into stakeholders, as they’re empowered to influence the direction and identity of your brand.
Cons: Ten years ago, crowdsourced translation was all the rage. But today this isn’t a common approach for a reason: It takes an exceptionally large volunteer community to maintain the high volume of translation that global companies need on a weekly basis. Users don’t have the free time they used to and they’ve grown jaded by every brand they engage with asking them to translate for free. Also, volunteers don’t always finish translations on time and can quit working whenever they want.
Advice: Proceed with caution. Ask if your company has tried this before. If so, have a plan to address what went wrong. And since this option is no longer “in style,” if you haven’t tried it yet, there’s probably good reason.
Pros: Bilingual employees are readily available and have intimate knowledge of your brand. And unless translation work pushes them into overtime, there’s no additional up-front cost.
Cons: Most likely, bilingual employees are already overwhelmed with other work. As budgets get tighter and deadlines get shorter, they’re busy–just like you. And unless their full-time job is “translator” you’re adding one more “to-do” to their list. Yes, it seems cheaper at first, but how much money are you losing from the productivity loss of pulling them away from their real jobs?
Advice: This approach is best for low-volume content with a short shelf life, like understanding the occasional client email. Bilingual employees are also fantastic for quickly summarizing inbound info so you know what’s worth sending to a professional translator.
Pros: Professional translators offer the highest level quality available.
Cons: They’re also the most expensive approach. And they tend to work more slowly. When professionals have access to prior translations, called translation memory in the industry, can do a lot to increase their productivity. The use of adaptive technologies, visual context, and other translator tools can help to more than double their output. But without these tools, the average professional translator only translates 2,000 words a day.
Advice: Give your translators the tools to be successful including translation memory, visual context, glossaries, style guides, and other linguistic assets. Send professional translators your most important customer-facing and highest-converting content, like your user interface strings, marketing emails, and landing pages.
Streamline with technology
The good thing about each approach is that they all mix well together: You don’t have to pick only one. Whichever route you choose, manage it with a transparent, data-driven platform.
A good translation management system will:
- Simplify and streamline translation
- Give you full access to all translation data
- Use data to pinpoint areas for improvement
- Create a turnkey process that eliminates manual tasks
- Show the current status and a quality score for all ongoing translations
- Provide your translators the tools they need to get translations right the first time and increase their productivity
Download our Essential Guide to Effective Translation to learn best practices for global content localization and grow your international markets.