If your website is launching into new territories and there’s a need to rework your digital content into different languages, then you’re more than likely spending a lot of time weighing up options for translation right now.
It’s tempting to want to go down the DIY website translation route, as it seems so quick and painless. You can get your browser to do the heavy lifting with the click of a ‘translate this page’ button, then copy and paste it all. Or you can type everything into a free translation tool and use the finished result.
However, if you’re serious about translation and want to make sure readers in a different country can access and engage with your content in a meaningful way, then you’re going to have to steer clear of the DIY approach and talk with a Language Service Provider (LSP).
Now, you’re probably thinking, "of course you're going to tell me that. You're an LSP after all." And we’re willing to admit it: using an LSP requires greater investment and time because, simply put, the translation is being done properly.
But when you think about the hours of expertise and knowledge needed for translation, it makes sense that these things take a little more time and come with a price tag.
So, if you’re still considering the DIY route, it’s important to know what issues and setbacks you could face when it comes to DIY website translations.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the five biggest problems you’re likely to come across when attempting to translate your website on your own.
1. Poor Accuracy and Inconsistent Content
This one’s simple: your translation may not be correct because there’s no one to check it.
Translation tools can only ensure a certain amount of surface-level accuracy, for example, the Swedish for “I’d like a juice” is “Jag håller på med en juice” however, when using Google Translate, the English result is the more nonsensical sentence “I’m wearing a juice”.
This goes for inconsistency in quality too. You may have a great translation on one page, but in a single click, your audience could be taken to another page displaying a terrible translation.
That’s just a bad user experience all around.
2. There's Little to No Context or Nuance
Language is way more complex than simply matching like-for-like words of a different language, as seen in the surface-level accuracy example we spoke about above.
There are also many nuances and types of structure to each language, rooted in culture and history, that machine and translation tools just simply don’t know.
A human with understanding and comprehension of not only the language, but the cultural context and cues of a country, is invaluable.
They can also capture meaning in translation through wordplay, turn of phrases and puns, that would otherwise fall short if left to a DIY tool. Some wordplay just doesn’t translate sentiment, so while a tool will literally translate the words, their meaning will be lost entirely.
3. Untranslatability Leads to Meaning Getting Lost
Relying on a machine to articulate the meaning and sentiment behind your content can be bad news if any of those words are untranslatable. This means there is no like-for-like equivalence of the word, expression or phrase.
For an LSP, it would simply be a case of finding an appropriate equivalent that converts the same meaning and context. DIY tools, however, cannot do this, so you’d likely be left with a tangled mess of two broken languages.
4. Grammar Mistakes and Typos Go Unchecked
Similar to the first point, if using a DIY tool, there’s no one to proofread and check the accuracy of a word, sentence, or paragraph structure. And how can you or your team spot a typo if you don’t read the language?
Quality control is everything when it comes to translation, after all, this is your company’s reputation on the line. You want audiences to have a good experience and leave your website thinking you’re professional and polished.
Poor grammar and a spelling mistake here or there can work against you.
5. There's No Creativity
When translating any type of wordplay, idioms or expressions, things can go horribly wrong if relying on a DIY tool. Take a look at our favorite examples of translations gone hilariously wrong for proof.
Certain sayings and turns of phrases can suggest alternative, literal meanings in a new country, which could cause reputational damage.
An LSP will help mitigate against any of that, thanks to their knowledge and understanding of the country’s culture.
More than that, they’ll be able to get a little creative and provide alternative sayings or phrases for the language and culture.
How Can Poor Translations Reflect on Your Brand?
So your translation isn’t as good as your competitors, so what? You still have a great product or service that potential customers in your new market are going to love, right? Well, there’s an outside chance of that, but you’re starting with two hands tied behind your back.
When people see foreign companies translate into their language without any real care, what they see is a company that…doesn’t really care. It doesn’t care about them or their culture, and it seems like the company just wants to invade their space rather than integrate into it.
Get a Quote for Your Website Translation Project
When it comes to making sure your translated content is high quality, contextual and makes sense for your new audience, you need an LSP with over twenty years of professional translation experience. And that’s us!
You know you're in good hands with our ISO-17100 compliance, as well as experience working with some of the world’s leading companies, institutions and governments, across 200 languages and multiple industries.
If you’re thinking of translating your website and want to find out more, we’d love to talk.
Consultations are free, and there’s no obligation.
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