Everything You Need to Know About AI and Translation Localization

Translation localization words have power

A research study on the use of neural machine technologies (NMT) and AI-based translation tools revealed that 500 million people per day rely on Google Translate to conduct their translations. Despite the widespread use of these technologies, they are best reserved for entertainment purposes or instances where the accuracy of the final translation is not paramount. When it comes to documents like HR operations manuals, contracts, agreements, marketing materials, and formal corporate correspondence, precision through translation localization is key.

The validity of a translation affects the way that the receiving party perceives your organization and your personal level of professionalism. One that is filled with inaccuracies, errors, blatant omissions, or nonsensical phrases, almost certainly guarantees a less-than-satisfactory experience and a hit to your reputation. Despite this, it isn’t uncommon for more severe consequences and dilemmas to arise as the result of a botched translation. This may include lawsuits, lost profit, and failed expansions but a true PR nightmare is a failure to take cultural differences into consideration. 

This is where localization services are essential. Translating and localizing content ensures that the information translated is not perceived as incorrect, offensive, or otherwise culturally insensitive to the target market. While translations without localization may not always contain such drastic instances, even the most minor oversights indicate to an audience that a brand isn’t truly concerned with understanding or being appreciative of its culture. AI and translation localization services do not co-exist for a number of reasons and this makes a big difference in the way that your organization is perceived and compared to competitors. 

Cultural Differences and AI Translations

While English speakers are familiar with the idiom that references cats having nine lives, for the people of Spain, the cultural legend is that cats have seven lives. This is also the case in Greece and Italy, while Arabic cultures associate the notion with six lives. Although a seemingly minor difference, using the wrong number represents that one does not truly understand the culture of the land. This is one instance, but cultural differences such as this run the gamut around the world. Consider how this simple difference would alter a translation containing the same notion.

Original phrase in English:

A cat has nine lives.

Google Translate to Spanish:

Un gato tiene nueve vidas.

ChatGPT to Spanish: 

Un gato tiene nueve vidas.

Human Translation Localization Services:

Un gato tiene siete vidas.

Google Translate and ChatGPT translated the phrases directly, word for word; however, neither technology could take the cultural differences between these languages into consideration. In this instance, the human translator was familiar with these differences and adjusted the term accordingly with translation localization services. The final result “a cat has seven lives” will be well-received by readers in Spain while those that read the renditions translated by ChatGPT or Google Translate.

In fact, when prompted to translate the phrase to say “seven lives”, ChatGPT advises that the correct version is “nine” lives and says that there is no equivalent: 

ChatGPT Translation Localization Response

Small variances like these may seem minuscule in the grand scheme of translation localization services; however, they resonate deeply with readers and consumers. For example, imagine you are spearheading a market expansion for a pet supply company in Spain. Your competitor is also expanding to the same market at the same time.

You opt to translate your marketing materials using AI translation services, but your competitor uses a human language services provider that specializes in localization. Within your marketing materials is a mention of cats having nine lives to reference a need for variety in cat litter options. The translation is performed word for word and reflects the nine lives sentiment. 

Your competitor uses the same sentiment to express a need for diet kibble. Upon noting the mention of nine lives, their expert human translator notes that this is inaccurate for the region. They change the wording to reflect that cats have seven lives.

When both of these market campaigns launch, your competitor will resonate as the more relatable brand. Your prices may be lower and your products superior; however, this small, seemingly insignificant detail will indicate to the new market that you did not do your research and may make them hesitant to proceed.

Homographs and Translation Localization Services

What are homographs?

Despite the intricate name, homographs simply refer to words that are spelled the same but have multiple meanings. Although this sounds like a rare occurrence, many common English words are homographs, like the word “bear” or “right”. 

Examples of Common English Homographs Examined in Translations

  • School (an educational institute vs. a group of fish), 
  • Bear (to carry or endure v. an animal)
  • Beat (to overcome v. exhausted)
  • Right (correct/precise v. a direction opposite of left)
  • Fair (just v. an outdoor gathering with activities)
  • Fall (autumn v. to take a tumble)
  • Object (an objection/disagreement v. a material item)
  • Wound (an injury v. past tense of wind up)
  • Second (measurement of time v. position after first)

Homographs: AI vs. Human Translation Localization Services

AI-based language services are not advanced enough to comprehend the context of an entire document. When homographs are interjected into a document that needs translation, the system cannot decide which meaning of the homograph is intended. Instead, they simply predict the meaning of the word and quite often get it wrong.

For example, a safety manual that mentions “fall protection” may be translated to “autumn protection” or a list of directions may tell the reader to take a “correct turn” instead of a right turn. Because Google Translate and ChatGPT use the previous words to predict the next when performing document translation services, these mistakes can further alter the results. In the end, readers are presented with a nonsensical translation that leaves readers confused. In the case of legal document translations, they may even be left unprotected under the law.

Human translators on the other hand are skilled in both languages and are aware that certain words have more than one meaning. Thus, they can choose the correct usage of the homograph in each instance to create a flawless document using translation localization services.

Colloquialisms and Translations

What are colloquialisms?

Colloquialism is a term used to refer to ordinary, everyday language terminology. Words and phrases that are used in colloquial language vary greatly from those used in formal conversation or in the literary world. For instance, you may tell your friends that you are “gonna” go to the store “cause” you need milk. If you were writing this same sentiment, you would say that you are “going to” the store “because” you need milk. 

Although similar to slang words, colloquialisms tend to be used by everyone who speaks the language rather than certain groups of people. 

Colloquial Phrases in Translation Localization Services

Under the umbrella of colloquialisms, there are a number of phrases that are used in everyday conversational language that may be difficult for non-native speakers to understand. While they are not used in formal language and writing, many businesses speak in a more conversational tone to their readers. This is also often the case when posting blogs or content on social media platforms. Attempting to translate these colloquial phrases using a technology like Google Translate is nearly impossible because they are trained more on formal language and cannot understand the meanings behind words beyond the data they are trained on.

For example, common American colloquial phrases include:

“Hard to swallow” – An AI document translation service would literally translate this statement as a person having difficulties swallowing due to an allergic reaction or a similar medical woe. In English; however, this simply means that something is difficult to believe. This would communicate a much different concept to readers without human interpretation or translation localization services. 

“Kick the bucket” – Another example of a colloquial phrase is this phrase used to lightheartedly refer to the act of dying. When translated without the insight of a native English speaker, readers would believe that a bucket was being kicked out of frustration or perhaps boredom. Again, this notion would be “lost in translation” and readers would be left utterly confused. 

“Elbow grease” – Informing a non-English speaking individual to put some “elbow grease” into a project will likely have them searching for body lotions or oils. Despite the fact that this phrase indicates that one needs to 

Translation Localization Services FAQ

What are translation localization services?

Translation localization services are a type of language service that goes beyond conveying the meaning of words between source and target languages. Instead, it takes cultural differences and nuances into account to avoid faux pas, offensive concepts, misunderstandings, or misinterpretations. 

Why does content need to be localized?

Content localization is crucial especially for corporations, non-profits, government entities, and legal professionals because it mitigates certain risks associated with market expansions or international entanglements. Because of cultural variances, some words, phrases, or concepts may be different, offensive, improper, or otherwise nonsensical to others. 

Does Google Translate localize content?

No. Google Translate and other language translation technologies are not capable of recognizing and adjusting the content for specific audiences based on cultural norms. This can only be done by a human language expert with cultural familiarity. 

How does Google Translate tell the difference between words with more than one meaning?

Words that are spelled the same but have more than one meaning are known as homographs. The neural machine technology (NMT) behind Google Translate is not capable of detecting the correct use and simply makes predictions that may or may not be accurate in these scenarios. 

How do translators localize content?

Not all translators are able to offer localization services like ASTA-USA Translation Technologies, Inc’s expert linguists. This requires decades of experience, subject matter expertise, and familiarity with the cultures involved. 

How much does it cost to translate a website with translation localization services?

The cost of translation localization services varies greatly based on factors like word count, the technical expertise required, and the source and target languages involved. Inquire now to receive a quote.