Here in Palabra, we run across a certain type of text all the time. A client contacts us to proofread a Spanish text, but, when we read it, we realize it’s far from being a Spanish text: it very much looks like a translation done by a machine.
Typically, machine translations are done through web pages that translate texts from one language into another through a computer software without human involvement. Many, like Google Translate, are free, and thus very tempting for someone in need of a translation. When we travel, or when we need to ask for help in a language that we don’t speak, these translations are very helpful, and can even save our lives.
However, the same cannot be said about professional translations, in which the finished text must be understandable, precise and free of errors.
5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Use Google Translate for Professional Translations
Here are the top five reasons why hiring a human translator will be beneficial for you in the long (and the short!) run.
- Machine translations are done word for word, and, in most contexts, this doesn’t work. As you may already know, words tend to have more than one meaning. Which one is being used in a specific sentence is decoded thanks to context. And context can be read by humans, not so much by machines. Although the softwares have become better in the last decade, they will still make mistakes with homonyms (words with the same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings, for example: I left my car in the left parking space).
- The market is becoming more and more globalized, so it’s important that your content is appealing to the specific audience you are trying to reach. Marketing campaigns, social media copy and blog posts, when translated, need to be adapted to the new customers, and only a human translator can do that.
- Many governmental agencies, universities and even companies ask for sworn translations of official documents. An official or sworn translation is one that has the signature and seal of a sworn translator, and has the same legal status as the original document. Only human translators can do this type of translation.
- In literature, whether it’s prose or poetry, language is used as a form of art. Literature uses alliterations, rhyming, hyperboles, cacophonies, ellipsis, metaphors, plays on words and many other figures of speech. A human translator first identifies them, then thinks of a strategy (because many are impossible to render in the target language, so they have to be adapted) and, lastly, starts translating. Can you imagine a machine doing this process?
- With content platforms like Netflix and HBO capturing the entertainment market, subtitling has become a prominent form of translation. However, subtitling adds a level of difficulty for translators, because they have to adapt to the restrictions of the screen and the speed of the scene. Besides, it’s one of the few instances of translation where the reader (or in this case, the viewer) has the original at hand, so the translator has to stay very close to the audio, without losing fluidity in the target language. It needs a very complex technique that only humans have.
CAT Tools Vs. Machine Translation
So far, we’ve been talking about machine translation. We’ve said that it can be useful sometimes, like when we are traveling or we want to chat informally with a friend who doesn’t speak our language. We’ve also established that, for professional translations, there’s nothing better than a professional human translator.
However, you might have heard that even professional translators sometimes use technology. That’s true, but what they use mustn’t be confused with machine translations.
Translators use CAT tools: Computer Assisted Translation tools. These tools use translation memories to provide the language professional with suggestions and corrections, and glossaries to help with the terminology. They help speed the process and make the resulting text consistent with previous translations. The main difference between CAT tools and machine translation is that, with the former, there’s still a human behind it, making decisions and choosing what’s best.
Using Machine Translation and a Proofreader
Some people are aware that machine translation is not a viable option for a text in a professional environment. However, they still think that they can hack the system: they “translate” the text in Google Translate and then hire a proofreader to edit and correct it.
It’s a huge mistake to do this. The machine translated text will need a lot of work, and the costs of hiring a proofreader will be high. They’ll need to go back to the original text to read the parts that are incomprehensible, they’ll have to correct the style and the tone, they’ll probably even need to translate whole chunks of text. And still, the resulting piece won’t be nearly half as good as if it had been translated by a professional. No matter how much does it cost to hire a translator, it will be cheaper than having to take down a campaign, having to reprinting material, or losing a client if the translation goes to print with mistakes. Hiring a professional translator from the beginning will save you all that.
In this article, we’ve explained the pros and, mostly, the cons of using machine translations. We’ve made emphasis on the importance of hiring a professional translator, specially for marketing campaigns, subtitling, literary texts and sworn documents. Also, we’ve established the difference between CAT tools vs machine translation. Finally, we’ve argued against using Google Translate and then hiring a proofreader to improve the text.
If you believe, like us, that it’s important to have a professional handling your translations, but you are wondering how to hire a translator, we can help you! In Palabra, you can hire a Spanish translator. We translate any type of text from English, French or Italian. If your text is in another language, get in touch with us! We can also help you.