How failing to proofread your website content will lose you money

In a world where internet buying has become common place, there is less and less face-to-face contact with sales people. Coercing potential customers into purchasing a product or service in-store just doesn’t arise as often.

Everything comes down to your website content. So what happens if that content is littered with typos, spellings or grammatical mistakes? It’s simple – you lose money.

People are becoming increasingly ruthless in selecting where to spend their money, so if you fail at the first hurdle by simply not having your website content professionally proofread, then you are likely to suffer financially.

Why is proofreading so important?

The inbound marketing agency, ImpactBND, answered this question nicely:

“If your content is plagued by poor grammar, it’s likely that people will think twice about the quality of your products or services.”

Your actual copy can be some of the best written around, but if it contains mistakes, its effect will be lost almost instantaneously.

When potential customers are looking for a new service or product provider, they are looking for a trustworthy, knowledgeable and credible company. This is very hard to show if a customer sees that the effort hasn’t been made to ensure the website is faultless.

There is a very talked-about case involving a British company called After correcting a typo on one of their tights category pages from ‘Tihgts’ to ‘Tights’, the company noticed a 80% increase in conversions. This is the proof that one simple error can lose your business a significant amount of money.

The importance of proofreading translations

The correct translation of your website is paramount if you want people to take your business seriously. The same applies for the proofreading of that translation. Content that has been badly translated or that contains spelling or grammar errors will very quickly fail to provide you with the extra revenue you had envisaged.

A translation agency should have a vigorous quality assurance process that involves employing a second qualified translator to proofread any translated text. Proofreading your own work is an almost impossible task, as your eye does not spot all the errors. A two-stage process means, as a client, you can be 100% sure that the translation delivered will be faultless and ready to upload onto your site.

Although having your website proofread will mean an initial outlay of money, it should be seen as an investment that will earn you higher profits in the long run.

Translating Health Care Documents to Spanish

A Guide to Translating Health Care Materials into Spanish – Second Part

In our last article, we discussed the benefits of translating health care materials into Spanish, and looked at some of the steps involved in the process. Once the decision has been made to translate the materials, the next step is to find a qualified translator. Here, we offer you a guide to recruiting qualified medical translators and to ensuring that the finished product is useable and fit for purpose.

Recruiting a qualified medical translator

Recruiting a qualified medical translator entails much more than finding someone who is bilingual. Although this is one of the necessary qualifications, a translator employed to translate health care materials must also possess considerable expertise and experience in the subject matter to be able to understand the source text.

A key decision is whether to employ a freelance medical translator or a translation agency. Although freelancers can be seen as a less expensive option, translation agencies offer a more comprehensive service, providing a whole team that will see a translation project through from start to finish. A project manager heads a team of translators and proofreaders, meaning that you save valuable time, which in effect saves you money.

Negotiating terms

After finding a qualified medical translator, terms need to be negotiated in regards to fees, completion dates and payment terms.

Spanish translators can charge in different ways, generally per word or per page. However, if the project is for a specific format, such as a pamphlet created in InDesign, translators may also quote a DTP fee. Where specialized knowledge and experienced is called for, higher costs should be expected.

Negotiations should be clear from the outset and should include that the translator will commit to staying with the project until completion. This should include proofreading and final revisions.

A further advantage of using a translation agency is that they usually offer discounts for large projects or for nonprofit organizations.

Development Phase

Throughout the development stage of a health care translation, close contact should be maintained between all parties, so that the translator can ask for clarification when needed. If the translation is a long-term project, possible reviews and updates should be specified in the quote.


The revision stage can either be carried out by the translation agency, which will use other qualified medical translators within its team to review the document, or it can be carried out by the client. However, if you were to undertake the review process yourself, it is paramount that the reviewer is a Spanish native speaker and ideally has extensive experience in both translation and the medical topic in hand. Grammatical construction and usage, spelling and use of expressions should all be taken in consideration.

Final proofreading

If the translator or translation agency is not in charge of the Desktop Publishing task, the translator should be available to do a final proofreading of the text once it has been integrated into its final design format.

Although producing and translating health care materials into Spanish can be an investment in terms of both time and money, it is becoming an essential process in a country like the US which has a large Hispanic population. The benefits of the investment far outweigh the risks to patient health and the careers of health care providers.

A Guide to Translating Health Care Materials into Spanish – First Part

Consider for a moment what it would be like if you broke your arm on holiday in Mexico. One minute you’re enjoying soaking up the sun in your resort, the next you slip on your way to the pool, and you’re on your way to hospital not understanding a word anyone says around you. From start to finish you don’t understand questions that are asked of you, never mind being able to answer them, and you realize that this communication barrier puts you at risk.

The situation is no better for the health care professionals at the hospital. As a doctor or nurse, treating patients you cannot communicate with is far from ideal. On the one hand, they are injured or sick and require treatment, but on the other hand medical treatment requires understanding and consent; proceeding without this is a risk to the patient and to the doctor´s reputation and career.

This exact situation is why producing and translating materials into different languages is an essential part of health care.

Why provide health care documents in Spanish?

Spanish is the second language of the US and 900,000 Hispanics live in North Carolina alone, which is nearly 10% of the state’s population. There is a considerable part of this population that has limited or even no English. Providing health care and medical documents in Spanish aids communication, but these translations need to be accurate and appropriate in order to achieve the following goals:

  • to ensure understanding of diagnosis, treatment and medication schedules, as well as any other educational or informative materials.
  • to eliminate the risk of patients unnecessarily attending services such as the emergency room. For example, a patient with sunstroke may just need rehydrating, but if the source of the problem cannot be communicated, the patient will end up taking up emergency resources.
  • patients will retain medical printed materials if the translation is of a high standard. Badly translated materials or materials in unknown languages are quickly discarded.
  • to protect medical professionals from legal proceedings as a result of miscommunication due to lack of professionally translated information.
  • to eliminate time being wasted trying to communicate in unknown languages.

Remember: Poorly translated medical and health care materials are as much of a risk as having no translated materials at all.  Only accurate, professional Spanish translations will help communication with Hispanic populations.

Recommended steps for health care translations

There are certain recommended steps that should be taken when planning health care translations.

Preliminary planning

Spend some time investigating whether the information you want to translate into Spanish already exists in your organization. If translated materials are already available, consider how you will evaluate them. The level of accuracy will need to be checked thoroughly as mistranslated information makes the purpose of a translation null and void. The reading level will need to be assessed to ensure it is of the correct level for the target audience, in certain situations a simplified text will be more appropriate.

Evaluating existing Spanish materials

When there is a sudden need for health care materials in Spanish, medical settings may use existing translations without evaluating them first. However, the evaluation step is crucial to ascertain if the material is accurate, appropriate and therefore usable.

This evaluation can be carried out by a Spanish speaker within your organization, or you will need to employ the services of a Spanish-speaking proofreader or editor who will be able to compare the content to the English version and check the quality and accuracy of the translation.

Other points that should be thoroughly checked include whether the text is culturally appropriate, whether it targets its audience in the appropriate way and finally whether it reflects your health care setting’s recommendations and provides up-to-date information.

Remember: Ordering pre-existing bilingual materials from a catalog or agency is no guarantee of quality and very few medical organizations have their own evaluation procedure.

How to present Spanish translated materials

Another important step when considering translating medical materials into Spanish is how they will be presented. There are various options to choose from:

  • having two separate versions: one in English, one in Spanish.
  • having one document with both languages. For one-page documents the English could be on one side and the Spanish on the other. For longer documents the translations could be separated into different sections, or the Spanish could be set in a block next to the English text.
  • including the Spanish under each line of English. However, this method tends to be used more for forms, as it looks untidy and can be hard to follow in extended pieces of texts.

In our next post, we will discuss how to recruit qualified translators, negotiate terms, the development phase and how to review and proofread translated materials.

How to translate a brochure to Spanish

Translating Brochures into Spanish: Best Practices

In the age of websites, questions are raised over whether translating brochures into Spanish, and indeed other languages, is still necessary.

Here, we explain why it is still an essential part of marketing and look at the best practices of this type of translation.

The need for brochure translation

However well-designed, effective and multilingual a company website is, the need for brochure translation as a marketing and sales tool remains.

Well-designed and well-written brochures give an impression of the wealth and success of a company, building client confidence. Without one, there is a time delay between referring a client to your website and the client actually looking. This allows for the risk factor of the client not taking the time to actually do so, or being attracted by the competition. Handing over a marketing material in paper form or emailing it directly into an inbox means potential clients have something concrete to refer to without trawling a website.

Paper form is particular beneficial for those who process better on paper, who need to feel something, be able to handle it, flick back and forth. Staring at a screen simply doesn’t allow information to be processed in the same way. This type of person will likely write on a paper brochure, underline, highlight and basically ‘think on paper’.

Spanish brochure translation

Spanish brochure translation is particularly beneficial, given the status of the language both in the US and worldwide. One of the six official languages of the US, 17.6% of the population declares Spanish as their first language. With over 472 million native speakers throughout 21 countries worldwide, Spanish is currently the second most spoken language in the world. Producing unilingual sales tools will limit reach dramatically.

What to consider when translating a brochure into Spanish

Factors to consider with Spanish brochure translation include:

  • Are you targeting a specific Spanish speaking audience or should neutral Spanish be used?
  • In order to obtain an accurate quote, most translation agencies request to review the document. Unless the brochure was created with MS Word, a PDF version rather than the source file is usually preferred.  If sending the entire file is not possible, a sizeable sample and the total word count will help the translation provider prepare the quote. Other information such as deadlines will also be necessary.
  • Decide who will be doing the desktop publishing. A brochure is usually created with a DTP program such as Adobe InDesign and if you want it with same format as the source document, you will need to pay for the agency to carry out the DTP task and the source file will be needed for the translator. Even if it is done with MS Word, the format can still be complex, so ensure to confirm with the translation agency if the format is included in the final price. The other alternative is to send the file in Word format and assign the DTP task to a qualified member within your team.
  • The translation should always be proofread. This can either be done by someone in your company, or the translation agency can assign a second translator do this. Also, consider asking the agency to review the final version once it is print-ready, if you are doing the DTP yourself.
  • Consideration needs to be given to the design. A translation from English into Spanish will have 15-30 percent more text, potentially creating the need for a different layout.  Features such as syllable separation, inverted exclamation and question marks, accents and the use of different characters such as ñ and ü all need to be considered.

Deciding to translate a brochure into Spanish means that you will be increasing the number of people reached, and in turn this will increase business for your company. Choosing the right translation agency and taking into consideration the above points will help you produce a professional Spanish brochure.


Bad translations are not always a laughing matter

A professional translator is far more than someone who speaks a couple of languages; a professional translator not only has native-level skills in both languages; he or she will consider both the terminology and register of the message to be interpreted (the text), and also the target audience to which it is directed.

Errors in register, terminology and culture can result not only in a garbled or inaccurate message, but can cause PR and legal nightmares as well. A poorly translated contract or tender may lead to faulty business decisions with enormous financial and PR fallout. Cross-cultural translation blunders can confuse or even offend target audiences, especially in new markets, resulting in negative financial consequences and damage to a company’s reputation. And while some of the translation mistakes you see below are funny, it should not be forgotten that inaccurate translations of medical prescriptions and medical information have actually resulted in the injury and death of patients.

Bad Marketing Translations

 Translation errorsSource: Rudy.Keysteuber @ Flickr.


Bad TranslationSource: Heima001


Bad Restaurant TranslationSource: raquelseco

Funny translationSource: Acula 

Bad TranslationsSource: Quinn.anya @ Flickr

Bilingual drug labels: Can you trust them?

In recent years, laws have been passed in the U.S. at the national and local levels to guarantee that Spanish speakers (and others who don’t speak English) are provided with the instructions for taking the medication in their language. The aim was to make sure that those with a low level of English proficiency were provided with instructions they could understand in order to prevent taking the medication at the wrong dosage or time, thereby making the treatment more effective and less likely to cause an overdose, and leading to a healthier patient and fewer associated costs.


Unfortunately, though, instead of helping matters, it appears that the translations can be wildly inaccurate, leading to confusion and even injuries. What was meant to help the patient get well has instead often hindered this process.

Research carried out in 2010 in a New York City borough with a large Spanish speaking population revealed a veritable tangle of errors that would leave any Spanish speaker at risk of taking the wrong amount at the wrong time, or even of medicating their children or others who depend on their care incorrectly.

Of the 316 pharmacies invited to take part in the research, 286 (91%) agreed to participate. Of these, 209 (73%) provided medicine labels in Spanish, with independent pharmacies more likely to do so than chain or hospital-based pharmacies. Of those providing labeling in Spanish, 86% used one of 14 computerized translation programs to translate the instructions (70% of the pharmacies used one of three different major programs), while 11% used staff members. Only 3% used a professional translator.

Seventy-six medicine labels were assessed by the researchers who found that, while the majority of pharmacies provided labels with instructions in Spanish, a shockingly high 50% of these labels were translated inaccurately, including 43% with incomplete (mixed English and Spanish) translations; an additional six contained misspellings or grammar errors.

These errors were mainly of three types:

Confusing directions: instructions to take the medication “once” a day could be interpreted as being told to take it eleven (spelled “once” in Spanish) times a day, potentially leading to an overdose.

Misspellings: Typing errors by the pharmacist (e.g., “poca” – which means “little” – instead of “boca” – which means “mouth”) could lead to a patient taking less than the prescribed amount. A case in point was the patient who was prescribed iron supplements to treat anemia; the patient was taking only one drop a day instead of the prescribed amount. Fortunately, the physician saw that the patient wasn’t responding as expected to the treatment and took the time to find out what had gone wrong.

Spanglish: Instructions with words like “dropperfuls”, “take with food”, “apply topically”, “for 7 days”, “apply to affected areas” were often simply left altogether untranslated, leaving out information that could very well be essential to the effectiveness of the treatment and thus the health of the patient, and also leading to confusion about the meaning of words (e.g., “once”, above).

Clearly, caring for a patient is a task that must be overseen by human beings able to use their professional judgment, not computer programs incapable of discerning a correct translation from an incorrect one. While health care costs must certainly be efficiently managed and contained to the extent possible, it is obviously counterproductive to provide and pay for treating patients when the very treatment itself may be administered incorrectly, leading to wasted time, effort and medication while at the same time threatening the health of the very person at the center of the treatment program: the patient.

The solution is clear: pharmacies must invest in providing accurate medicine labels so that patients understand the instructions; the costs associated with the financial and social losses arising from mislabeled medicine are far more expensive than hiring professional translators to do the job right from the very beginning.

Pharmacists that understand this and provide their customers with accurate information are likely to enjoy the trust of their customers, gain their loyalty and, in the end, will know that they are fulfilling part of their oath: to embrace and advocate changes that improve patient care.

International e-commerce: When marketing in English only isn’t enough

Today, the world can be your global marketplace, thanks to e-commerce, the buying and/or selling of goods and services over the internet or via other electronic services. The proliferation of B2B (business-to-business) and C2C (consumer-to-consumer) web portals and other marketing platforms has made it possible for companies and individuals across the world to shop for, compare and choose exactly the products they are looking for, and has motivated businesses ranging from small, home-based mom-and-pop operations to some of the world’s largest multinationals to market their products to target audiences across the planet.

Yet reaching your potential customers and then getting them to actually buy your product is far more nuanced than you might at first imagine, and language plays a highly significant role in the customer’s decision to choose your product.

This highly important issue – which is often overlooked, underestimated (or, sadly, even ignored) by companies engaging in e-commerce – was highlighted in a recent survey (Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: How Translation Affects Global E-Commerce) conducted by independent research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research).

online-buying-languagesImage courtesy of

This survey included more than 3,000 global consumers in 10 countries where the official languages do not include English: Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey. These countries were chosen because either they have big economies, large populations or they speak a language used in several countries). The survey was conducted in an official language of each country, but respondents were also asked to rate their own ability to read English. It looked at consumers’ online languages preferences and how these impacted their purchasing decisions. Factors such as nationality, English-language proficiency, global brand recognition, and the ability to conduct transactions in local currencies were taken into account. A market research specialist firm handled the survey and data collection, while CSA’s statistician reviewed the raw data and ran a series of calculations and correlations to determine the results.

The results showing the importance of marketing in the local language were clear:

  • consumers spend more time on sites in their own language
  • consumers are more likely to buy at sites in their own language
  • people prefer products with information in their own language
  • most consumers prefer products in their own language
  • most buyers will pay more for products in their own language
  • language becomes more of an issue when buyers need help
  • all nationalities agree on wanting customer care in local languages
  • language affects behavior throughout the customer experience.

Only in a few cases (for example, consumer comfort buying in other languages varies by nationality, lower prices matter more than local language in some countries, and buyers more proficient in English feel more at ease buying in English) did the results seem to favor English-language only marketing, although these characteristics tended to be restricted to certain countries or those who felt themselves to be proficient in English.

Other findings from the survey include the fact that 30% of the respondents never make purchases from English-language sites, and another 29% do so only rarely. Half would prefer that at least the navigation elements and some of the content appear in their language, while 17% of these feel strongly that this should be the case. Conventional industry wisdom says that potential customers flee mixed-language websites, and this survey has definitively shown this to be simply untrue.

The survey’s results are certainly surprising to the many global marketers – both consumers and companies – that have generally been operating on the assumption that potential customers with basic English skills are successfully targeted with either the original English-language e-commerce portal, or with an English translation of the portal’s original language content.

Based on this unexpected outcome, Common Sense Advisory points out that website localization (which results in culturally appropriate translations tailored to the target audience) is indispensable to any company or individual wishing to sell more of its products to its potential global customers and, indeed, must be part of the strategy to provide a positive user experience and engage potential customers in a brand dialog.

Ten questions you should ask a translation provider before hiring them

Hiring the services of a translation provider can be a difficult task, whether you’ve had experience in the area before or not. There’s a number of fundamental concerns to cover before signing a contract with anyone, most of which can be carefully covered by asking the right questions.

Translation providers unable or unwilling to respond to your questions can be eliminated from the list immediately. The following ten questions aren’t difficult for experienced, qualified translation providers to answer. Nor are they designed to catch anyone out. On the contrary, these questions will give trusted, capable translation providers the opportunity to prove their worth and encourage you to invest in the translation services that they provide.

In addition, anyone looking to hire the services of a translation provider will be able to use the questions below to find out exactly what to expect from their potential providers before any actual translating work gets underway.

1. Do you charge per page, per target word or per source word?

Translation providers don’t all charge for their work in the same way. Some charge per page and others per word. However, there are some differences to take into account when being charged per word. For example, if you are charged per “source word” you will know exactly what you will be charged, because the “source language” is the language your document is written in when you hand it over to be translated.

If the translation provider wants to charge you per “target word” it might work out cheaper or more expensive, depending on the languages involved. Spanish uses more words in general than English. Therefore, translations from English to Spanish which are charged per “source word” are always going to be cheaper than those charged by “target word” for obvious mathematical reasons.

2. Does your service include proofreading by a second translator?

It’s important to remember that even the most-skilled and experienced of translators is still just a human being. Human beings make errors and even though the translator will proofread his or her own work, it’s important to ensure that a second translator, as equally skilled and qualified for the job, will be in charge of reviewing the translation before the document is handed back to you.

Fresh eyes are needed and a second translator will also bring a fresh perspective to the translation which might help to raise small, but important, areas for improvement or authenticity.

Translation agencies usually include the proofreading fee in their quotes.

3. Who will be doing the actual translation?

Find out as much as possible about the education, translation certificates and specific experience of the actual translator who will be the one performing the translation of your documents. Find out whether he or she is a native speaker too, if possible.

Think about the kind of documents you need translating and for what purpose too. For example, you might need to find a translator with formal qualifications in legal translations or medical translations. The qualifications held by one translator will vary greatly when compared with the next. Some translators might not even hold formal qualifications. Find out as much as possible about the translation service provider and what requirements they ask of the translators that they choose to work with.

4. Can you provide me with the references of two previous clients?

The best way of finding out whether or not a translation provider is going to supply you with the kind of translation service you’re hoping for, is to ask for references from previous clients. However, bear in mind that not all translation providers will want to share this information with you, irrespective of whether or not the references would paint them in a good light.

There are rules and regulations related to client confidentiality in the translation industry, as laid out by various translation associations, which protect translators and their clients from sharing such information. Indeed, some translators can take offence if pushed too hard for information which they consider to be confidential. If the translator is happy to share this information, that’s great, but don’t labor the issue too much as it does go against the basic ethical conduct unless they have previously asked their clients to ask for permission to give out their contact information for references.

5. Will you review the comments and corrections I make to the translation?

Erring on the side of the pessimist, your translation might come back to you and despite having been translated by the best in the business and proofread by someone even better than the best, you might find a problem with the translation and need it to be rectified. Taking this possibility into consideration before the translation work even begins is important as you should consult the translation provider beforehand to find out what would happen under such circumstances.

You’ll need to establish early on how many revisions the translation provider would be willing to make and what the turn-around time for these revisions would be. It’s also important to find out how you would be expected to highlight corrections/revisions to the translation on the document itself. Find out if you would be able to leave direct notes to the translator on the document or whether you would need to file your comments in an email or some other kind of document.

It’s also really important to find someone trustworthy who can check the translation of the translated document for you so that you know you have received exactly what you were promised and have paid for. This is particularly important if either the “target” or “source” languages, or both, are foreign to you.

6. Does your quote expire?

When searching for the right translation provider, it might take some time. You might contact anywhere between 5 – 20 different providers and during that time the quotes that each provider has given you might end up changing. Some prices are good only for a specific period of time and therefore it’s worth checking whether or not the price you have been quoted has an expiry date or not.

7. Does your translation include a Certificate of Accuracy?

You may need your translations to include a Certificate of Accuracy. Firstly, not all translation providers offer this service and secondly those which do don’t always include the cost of that certificate in the quote that they provide you with. The Certificate of Accuracy is something you normally have to ask for separately from the basic translation work that you need done.

In addition, you might need to have the translations notarized. As with the Certificate of Accuracy, not all translation providers offer notarization services and those which do will charge separately for the same.

8. Do you offer any discounts for large volumes or bulk translation work projects?

Many translators/agencies offer discounts for large volumes, frequent translations or nonprofits.

9. Will you send me the translation in the same file format?

Translation providers don’t all use the same translation programs or translation tools. The market for translation technology continues to grow and translation providers will make changes to the programs they use depending on the features that these new technologies offer them. Some programs, like the OmegaT GPL Translation Memory Tool, are compatible with files which can be saved and shared as Microsoft Office, Rich Text Formats and HTML files.

The important thing is to ask about file formats from the very beginning. Find out what kind of file the translation company will send your translation through to you in and check whether or not this is going to cause difficulties for you in terms of needing to format your document. For instance, if you send a PDF file, the translator might send you back a Word document with a format which might not be identical to the original. Some translators offer Desktop Publishing services at extra costs.

10. What are the terms and conditions of payment?

Be sure to ask about the terms and conditions of payment and get those terms and conditions recorded in writing. It will be necessary to find out whether or not payment needs will be required upfront and in what forms you will be able to pay for the translations provided. Some translation providers do not accept credit cards, for instance. Other translators might offer the option to pay in installments.

September 30: Happy International Translation Day!

Did you know that the Bible has been translated into 310 languages and that some of its text passages have been translated into 1597 languages and dialects? Did you know that the works of Lenin have been translated more often than Shakespeare’s dramas (321 compared to 93) or that Jules Verne was published in more languages that  Karl Mark (238 against 103)? And did you know that Asterix and Tintin have been both translated into 41 languages and dialects?

Who said that translators didn’t have a day to celebrate their profession? The International Translation Day is celebrated on 30th September on the feast of St Jerome, the bible translator. St Jerome has always been considered the patron saint of translators.

St. Jerome

The International Federation of Translators promoted celebrating St Jerome’s Day worldwide in 1953. All across the globe different celebrations and activities were organized to raise social awareness about the huge impact that translators and their work have on society: from users’ manuals to literature pieces to scientific discoveries, all of them can be globally known because a translator has made that possible.

Thirty-eight years later, in 1991, the FIT launched the idea of an officially International Translation Day to show the solidarity of the worldwide translation community in an effort to promote the translation profession in all countries, and not necessarily only in Christian ones.

The International Translation Day also offers us all with a great opportunity to draw attention to the importance of translators and interpreters in the world as they often remain invisible and unacknowledged, despite their huge contribution to communication and interaction in all sorts professional and social spheres.

Machine Translation or Professional Translation?

Since Google Translate made its first appearance in the translation market, many people thought that translators had seen their days. In fact, many believed that these language professionals were no longer needed: why spend money in hiring their services when there was an automatic translation machine that could deliver the same results? But, is a machine translation as accurate as a human one?

Relying on a machine translation allows users to have a document translated in seconds whereas a human translator would take hours or even days to do it. However, speed has nothing to do with accuracy and this is quite an important point you should bear in mind.

How does automatic translation work?

Unlike language professionals that translate documents paying attention to the general meaning of the text and carefully choosing the most appropriate words and expressions and making sure the translated version sounds natural to the reader, in an automatic translation the software performs a literal translation of the text. In other words, the original document is generally translated into the foreign language word by word, without caring about the way in which sentences are arranged in that language.

As a result, the final version is many a time a collection of words stringed together with not much sense altogether.

Machine translation sample

A text translated by Google Translate

When can an automatic translation be useful?

Even though machine translations will never give you the feeling of a natural, well translated text, there are some occasions in which they can be useful.

Automatic translation is great for personal use, especially when you are pressed with time and need to have a general idea of what a text is about and it’s not worth to hire a human translator to do it.

Other occasion in which you can use an automatic translation service is to translate Facebook posts or Twitter messages. Many times, a foreign friend writes something in his mother tongue and you’re curious about it. Copying the text in Google Translate can easily solve the mystery.

When should you avoid an automatic translation?

Generally speaking, corporate texts (memos, websites, internal manuals, financial documents and so on) as well as medical, legal and technical documents should always be translated by a human translator. In these cases, accuracy is not only a must but also it is of utmost importance that the message reaches your audience strongly and clearly.

Literary works shouldn’t be translated by a machine either. These pieces of writing demand the cultural awareness, exquisiteness and common sense of a human translator. Only a translator can choose the most accurate wording to express the poet’s or writer’s message.