The dangers of relying solely on machine translation

By December 16th, 2019 | machine translation, branding | 0 Comments


If you need to offer your website in another language, you have likely considered the option of using machine translation, a tool that is tempting due to its speed and low cost. The truth is that many people make use of these online services thinking that they will get their text written in any language they want in just a few minutes and free of charge.


The truth behind machine translation

When we place our trust in translation software, we often forget that these programs merely change words and groups of words around in the target language and do not consider the respective context. This can cause major issues for your final translation: if you do not take into account the relationship of a concept with the words around it, you are unlikely to capture the desired meaning.

This change in meaning could become a real danger for you, especially if you have an e-commerce business and need your customers to fully understand both the product you are selling and the purchase conditions.

Misunderstandings and misinterpretations may be humorous when we read them, but if you are trying to sell cycling products and translate “fork” as tenedor in Spanish, and not , you may have a real problem on your hands when potential customers are deciding to make a purchase. This exemplifies what can happen when you try to use machine translation for a technical text, where the program is limited to providing the most generic word.


Cultural factors in machine translations

Likewise, a translation program is not able to understand the cultural elements of a text and adapt them to the target language. This can cause obvious errors like not converting a monetary amount from dollars to euros or inches to centimeters

Consequently, these texts will not be as useful for users who decide to purchase a specific product as per its characteristics.

The importance of a professional eye

Despite the fact that today's machine translation programs are of much higher quality than even a few years ago (some have access to glossaries and language repositories for a more accurate translation in accordance with the business area, not to mention artificial intelligence), we cannot forget that, as it stands, no machine can do the same work that a human can.


With that said, there is a middle way between machine translation and human translation: machine translation with human post-editing is the ideal solution for those who need a quick translation that is 100% accurate. A program translates the text and a human edits and corrects it, making the changes he or she sees fit so that no word or expression loses any of its meaning.

In short, machine translation can be downright dangerous for your online business if you use it by itself for your translations. However, with the help of human post-editing, it can be a useful tool to make your e-commerce website available in all the languages you need.