Machine Translation vs. Human Translation

machine translation vs human translation

In an increasingly hyper-connected world, companies are under increased pressure to reach foreign markets, adapt their brand and tailor products to potential clients across the globe.

The role of translation in this process is crucial. Targeted, localized, culturally relevant and accurately translated advertising campaigns are essential for creating positive brand associations.

Human Translation vs. Machine Translation: A Critical Decision for Your Business

When it comes to localizing web content and marketing communications, many businesses feel pressure to cut costs and save time.

It’s no surprise then that businesses often opt for machine translation instead of a professional translation agency.

According to Diginomica, one in four marketing teams use Google Translate, while only 29% choose professional human localization.

But the easy path often teaches us hard lessons. Famous localization blunders have proven that good translation is crucial in the world of advertising.

Pepsi’s sloppy slogan translation of “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” into Chinese resulted in a catastrophic communication breakdown.

The Chinese equivalent ended up reading, “Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave.” And it nearly sent the brand six feet under.

Not only was it ridiculous, but the humiliating howler was committed in a country that places significant emphasis on respecting one’s ancestors.

People didn’t see the funny side.

A lack of knowledge of the target country’s culture or local vernacular can be disastrous for any company’s global marketing campaign.

Scandinavian company Electrolux believed they were emphasizing the suction power of their vacuum cleaners when they targeted the US market with the slogan “nothing sucks like an Electrolux.”

The resulting message suggested quite the opposite and cost the company time and money to win back consumer respect.

The human touch is essential in avoiding these terse translation tripwires.

Using online translation tools may be fast, but it will always lack the cultural sensitivity and background knowledge that a professional translator provides.

Many businesses only turn to professional translation after having experienced poor results using machine translation.

The Studies Speak for Themselves

Sejong Cyber University and the International Interpretation and Translation Association of Korea conducted a study to test the abilities of four professional translators against various machine translators.

Three texts of different styles were used, and a panel of professional translators were asked to rate the final translations on their 1) accuracy 2) language expression and 3) logic and organization.

The final translations were then given a mark out of 60. Unsurprisingly, the human translators came out on top, with a score of 49 out of 60.

Google Translate, in comparison, received a score of 28 out of 60, with other machine translators receiving even lower ratings.

Despite continued technological advances in machine translation, it appears that a human translator still performs better when faced with a variety of texts.

Clearly, something as crucial to the future of your business as a marketing campaign is not something to scrimp on.

A machine translation may save you money in the short run, but in the long term, negative brand perception caused by poor translation will alienate potential clients and reduce revenue.

In a different study, long-time, state-certified financial translator Ralf Lemster and Google Translate went head-to-head, translating a newspaper article from English into German.

The results were then checked and compared by Uwe Reinke, a linguistics professor from Cologne.

While Google Translate spits out a finished text in seconds, Lemster takes about 20 minutes – but the difference in quality speaks for itself. “Shorter sentences are semi-intelligible,” says Reinke about the machine translation.

But on more complex sentences, Google failed completely – it’s hard to make out any meaning.

“GT isn’t capable of accurately capturing context, background, or even industry terminology in some instances,” explains Lemster.

He also points out that customers appreciate it when their texts are reviewed by a human translator who can give feedback.

He also points out that privacy is an issue with cloud translation services.

“Nobody knows where the data ends up,” he says, adding that confidential documents should never be translated with an automated online service such as Google Translate.

Betranslated Helps You Target Foreign Markets Fluently

As German politician Willy Brandt once said, “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”

Targeting foreign markets requires accurate translation, and it takes a human translator to get to the heart of what your brand represents, and transmit it effectively to your customer, whether they’re in Germany, France, South America, or anywhere else in the world.

Here at BeTranslated, we specialize in corporate translation and have become experts in the art of localizing marketing and publicity campaigns.

We’re experienced in all types of marketing material, from press releases to product catalogs, and always respect your specific requirements, deadlines and budget.

So, who better than our multilingual team of professionals to help your business grow in the international marketplace?

Effective brand localization and fluent translation of your marketing materials can significantly increase your client base and future revenue.

Avoid potential negative brand associations, by partnering with an experienced team of professional translators.

Human knowledge and intuition remain essential in crossing the cultural divide that separates every business from potential foreign markets.

Get in touch to find out more about how we can help with your unique translation needs.