Translation has changed. In the old days, when companies wanted to translate documents, there were limited options for the type of translation service they could get. That’s not true anymore. With a more developed translation industry and the availability of computer technology, companies can choose from a variety of translation types to suit different situations and budgets. But how do you know what’s available and which method is the right one for you? Here’s a guide to some translation options to help you make the right choice.
1. Pure Machine Translation
If you have ever used Google Translate, then you have seen machine translation in action (and you probably know some of the benefits and pitfalls, too). As the name suggests, pure machine translation is where computers translate your text without human input. The main advantage of machine translation is speed as computers process data many times faster than people do.
But there’s a huge disadvantage too: machines don’t always deliver the output you expect. The most common words in English have multiple synonyms and you can’t rely on a machine to know which one you want to use. I’ve seen this happen when reading an automatically translated site, and the effect is jarring, because machines aren’t yet good at picking up subtle nuances.
In this instance, the increased speed of pure machine translation may not be worth the cost to your image if your content doesn’t sound right to your customers.
2. Customized Machine Translation with Human Review
If you have the right content and are willing to do the initial investment in machine translation, then you can have your LSP create the system for you.
Customized dedicated machine translation systems can be created for specific clients, languages, and domains. These customized systems normally provide better results than generic systems; however they are still machines and need human review.
You will also need to start looking for the right linguists who can perform machine translation post-editing.
Post-editors keep editing all machine translation outputs, then you need a continuous retraining process to enhance translation quality. This means you keep training the machine with translations edited or done by humans so it keeps learning.
If this process is handled properly it ends up paying off for the initial investment, but if the machine quality is not good then the cost for editing is sometimes higher than translating from scratch by humans.
Professional post-editors know how the machine works and they know how to correct machine errors, as well as what machines need to learn.
3. Non-Specialist Human Translation
If you’re working in a multilingual environment you may be able to get employees to translate content as needed. I’ve worked in a couple of offices where my boss has asked me to translate items into and from other languages. The advantage of this approach is that your employee will understand your products and services and the nuances in your content. But if that person isn’t a professional translator, he may still not be able to convey these in a different language – and poor translations will hurt your reputation and your bottom line.
Additionally, professional LSPs are using the right technologies that allows for translation leveraging and maintaining consistency. Native professionals have to be living in the language’s country, updated with the language changes, and know the culture.
4. Professional Human Translation
There’s no denying it: professional human translation is the most costly translation option. It’s also the one which is most likely to enhance the reputation of your business. A professional translator is trained in the art of translation, has an innate understanding of the nuances of the source language, and can translate those seamlessly into the target language. If your content relies on eliciting emotions in your customers (which is common in sales and marketing copy), then this is by far the best option. And if you’re translating content for a localization project, it’s much more likely that the audience you’re targeting will feel like you’ve written the content just for them.
5. Subject Matter Experts
Sometimes you need to call in a specialist – a professional human expert with specialist knowledge of a particular area, plus translation experience and/or training. This might be the case if you’re translating medical or legal documents, where you need to be sure you get everything right. Sure, using a subject matter expert (SME) will increase the translation budget, but sometimes it’s worth it to avoid problems later on. One issue to be aware of, though, is that if you are using both specialist and non-specialist translators, you’ll need a reviewer to check that your style is consistent.
The role of the SME can vary based on the project size, content type, and complexity. For example, the SME can do the translation followed by professional linguistic review, or can act as the quality assurance point, or the terminology expert.
I’ve talked a lot about preserving nuance in this article. That’s where transcreation comes in. It’s where you use transcreators to recreate the emotive language and nuance when your brand moves to a new market. It’s particularly important when launching new products/services, entering new markets, executing new campaigns, and re-positioning your company or products. In such situations you need to be sure that your brand image and messaging make sense to new audiences reading your content in new languages while maintaining alignment with your core brand image.
These six translation options cover most situations you will face. There is no one size fits all, so evaluate your current position, assets, budgets, and future plans, then decide about your translation/localization strategy that may include a mix of the options mentioned above.
Which types of translation have you tried, and what results did you get?