Have you ever needed something translated for your in another language but could not find a native speaker to translate what you needed?
This is a common mistake many businesses make when trying to branch out overseas by having documents translated into the native language of their target audience. Credit-driven students in language classes often use these translations on their homework, thinking that they can avoid actually doing the work. Unfortunately for them, their teachers can always tell when they’ve used an online translator.
Online translators are possibly the most convenient and quick way to translate something into your desired language. However, there are several drawbacks I would like to address when it comes to using a machine to do the translation instead of a native or fluent speaker in the language.
The Translation Sounds Unnatural
Online Translators are well-known for translating word-for-word from one language to another. What does this mean? Critical aspects are ignored of the target language (grammar, nuances, idioms, slang, synonyms, etc) that may not exist in your native language. The intended meaning will be completely lost because the translation is too literal, especially if it’s a figurative expression. You also have to take into account the structure of the language too. There isn’t an single language that can be translated word for word without it being an elaborate cipher. Even similar languages like Spanish and Portuguese have their own unique patterns that differentiate from each other.
The Translation Of The Word or Phrase Is Incorrect
Depending on which translator you use, you are going to come across inconsistencies. Whether the word was not added to the database, (Thus, no translation for that particular word!) or the translated word in question was wrong. This is potentially the most dangerous aspect an online translator can do. Mistranslated materials often lead to embarrassing, hilarious, or inappropriate situations. This especially includes when the word translates to an informal or vulgar expression. There might be a few times where you will get a semi-accurate results but that’s is because someone actually went in programmed those words or phrases into the translator manually. Depending on the language, you could you a translator (ie: Google Translate) like a dictionary but it would be a good idea to avoid translating phrases.
What are you going to do if you accidentally offended your client?
It destroys any professionalism by displaying your lack of responsibility or unwillingness to hire a professional translator. Sometimes the translation is completely incomprehensible, leaving the client totally confused!
Words are left untranslated
This is probably the most unprofessional thing you could do with a translation, especially if you do not pay attention to the details of the translation. There are times where the word is you are looking for is not recognised by the translator at all. What happened? The word might not have been added to the translator’s database, causing the word (regardless of tense, declination, or case) to remain the same. Otherwise, it is probably a loan word borrowed from your native language. Every language has their own specific set of words that cannot be properly translated from one language to another. It’s determining how to phrase those particular words effectively in a translation that an automated translation simply doesn’t have the capacity to do.
Bing Translate (Formerly: Altavista/Yahoo Babelfish)
Formerly known as Altavista/Yahoo Babelfish, this online translator is the most inaccurate online translator that it’s even humourous for a native speaker of the language to read. During my process of learning languages on my own as a teenager, I often discovered free translation websites and tried quite a few of them to see if they actually produced decent results. Unfortunately, I quickly found out that the translation I wanted was incorrect.
Simple. I just copied and pasted the original word or phrase and translated it back into English. Just take a look at what Bing does to a sample text after being translated several times!
See what happened? Can you imagine the misunderstandings if you were to use a particular word or phrase through Bing and end up with completely random word or phrase instead? Let’s look at this example:
Where I can find a supermarket?
This is a very simple request that you might ask for. Let’s see what it looks like when translated into Japanese through Bing: (Please make sure your computer is able to show Japanese characters. Otherwise look at the romanisation.)
場所はスーパー マーケットを見つけることができます。(Basho wa suupaa maaketto o mitsukeru koto ga dekimasu)
Now back into English:
Place is the supermarket can be found thing can do.
So obviously not exactly what you want to ask in Japanese as it could cause confusion. This sentence sounds like they were trying to say that a certain place is a supermarket market rather than the directions you need to do to get there.
Have you used an online translator? If so, were people able to understand what you wrote/said? Or what is completely gibberish instead?