Automated vs. Human Translation Services

The Pitfalls of Automated Translation vs. Human Translation Services

We have all seen it before in our respective line of business. Due to the fact that they use them everyday, and that everybody has mastered at least one, people tend to believe that working with languages require no special skills or expertise. This is painfully evident when it comes to translations. Everybody is a translator… Few understand what a professional translator really is. Often the results leave much to be desired unless a professional translation services approach is applied. But sometimes you notice instances that perhaps take things a bit too far.

Due to legal requirements to be able to access the Mexican and Latin American markets, or simply to make their products more appealing to a Spanish speaking clientele, many companies are forced to include Spanish translations in their product packaging. Sometimes, most likely to try to cut costs, some of them resort to some sort of automated translation instead of taking the wise approach and using a professional translation services company. Who cares, a Spanish phrase is as good as any other, right? Wrong!

Let me give you an example. Some time ago, I saw the following product made in China in a well-known retailer: High Pressure Jet Washer.

The product description in the box was translated into French and Spanish – in that order. The Spanish translation was as follows: Presión Alta de la Arandela del Chorro.

To the Spanish speakers reading this, let me be clear that I am not joking… To non Spanish speakers, the translation makes no sense whatsoever and is obviously the result of automated translation – not from a professional “human” translation services provider (or a very Spanish-challenged human translator). Somebody typed the English phrase in a free Internet translation service engine and used the resulting translation without having it reviewed by a professional translation services agency that uses accredited human translators.

The English term “washer” has at least two translations according to context. In this particular case, the correct translation would be “lavadora” or “lavador”, feminine and masculine respectively. Instead, they used “arandela”, the translation for “washer” as in “nuts, screws and washers”.

Even if they had used the correct translation, word order renders this phrase utterly meaningless. The correct Spanish translation would have been something along the lines of “Lavadora de alta presión”.

With translations, as with anything else, we get what we pay for. And cheaper is very seldom – if ever – the way to go if you are looking for correct, accurate and appropriate translation. It can be extremely costly – especially for critical business or legal applications – to avoid using a professional translation services company in order to save a few dollars.