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The perils of machine translation

Fine. Google Translate isn’t that great when it comes to seventeenth century Spanish literature. But could it be more useful in the world of business? Apparently not. To take just one example, the Spanish telecoms giant Telefónica’s homepage has the following invitation: ‘¿Quiere contratar una línea telefónica, un ADSL, cualquier otro producto?, díganos en qué país está y qué producto busca.’ Put this through Google Translate and we come up with this mildly amusing gibberish: ‘Looking to hire a phone line, ADSL, any other product?, Tell us what country you are and what the product looks.’ In a similar vein, according to Google, Vodaphone España ‘innovate your way to communicate inside and outside with their fixed telephony’ whilst Orange urges us to ‘profit of greater comfort and safety in for your consumption.’

As these examples show, even a simple sentence will often come out of Google Translate looking like it was written by a Martian.

This is not necessarily a problem for day to day translations. In the case that you receive an email in a language with which you are not familiar, Google Translate is a useful tool, giving you some idea of the sense of the message without wasting time or money. But if you need to produce a text which is meant to be read and understood by potential clients, this sort of writing will lose you business, and could well cause you embarrassment on an international scale. Where accuracy and excellence are of any importance — for reports, proposals, sales letters, newsletters, manuals, catalogues and any document that must be technically and grammatically impeccable — the dangers of relying on machine translation cannot be overstated.

At Quicksilver Translations, we offer a professional service which is free of all the pitfalls of machine translation. Our premium service will take your document from initial translation through two review stages, ensuring that the final version will be faithful to what you want to say, grammatically correct and written in an appropriate style – in whichever languages you need.

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