There are lots of language translation apps to choose from. They have their uses, potentially making a hugely positive difference to international communications with customers, prospects, suppliers, stakeholders, manufacturers and partners. But these translation tools also come with disadvantages, and are all limited in one way or another. Let’s take a look at the benefits and disadvantages of using language translation apps in a business context.
What are language translation apps?
Free translation apps, including Google Translate and Microsoft Translator, cleverly translate text, voice and conversations, and can even carry out image translations. They work online and offline to create translations in over 60 languages.
If you type ‘language translation app’ into a browser you’ll probably see a box right at the top of the search results. This is a language translation tool. The left hand side is where you write or paste the words you want translated, and the right hand side is where you choose the language to translate it to, and the place your translated text appears. The results are instant text you can copy and paste, then use in any way you like.
Pros of language translation apps
So what are the pros of language translation apps, an instant way to translate text into a wide choice of different languages in seconds?
· Translation apps are usually incredibly fast and easy
· Many of them are free to use
· You can use just one app to translate multiple languages
· The tech is gradually improving as time goes by
· They offer translation into a huge variety of languages
· An app can be useful for checking an entire document has been translated or for gaining a ‘gist’ understanding – just pop the text into the box and you’ll be able to spot anything that’s been missed
· It’s handy for testing things like RTL settings, and making sure Unicode characters display properly
· Apps help you see how much your text will shrink or grow in another language. German, for example, can take up as much as 40% more space than English, which might mean you have to change your page design or add another page to your printed brochure – something you want to know early on in the process.
Cons of language translation apps
Language apps also come with some important downsides.
· The level of accuracy can be disappointing – not good in a business context
· Many apps, including Google Translate and Microsoft Translator, involve downloading special language packs before you can use them offline
· Apps are designed to translate small amounts of text, not entire documents and certainly not lengthy or complex technical content
· Even Google doesn’t use its own machine translation software – and that says a lot!
· You’ll struggle to translate content including code, xml, properties or placeholders – apps usually break the code during translation
· A translator app can’t handle your brand’s tone of voice or style – it just translates word for word
· An app can’t take context into account, which means an app’s basic word for word translations can get businesses into big trouble. You can’t be certain that a very literal app-led translation won’t mean something else altogether out of context, or might even cause offence. Mistakes and hurt feelings can cost a fortune in time and money to solve
· An app won’t take SEO into account. It won’t necessarily translate a word into the right alternative word in another language, potentially leaving your international SEO in ruins
When should language translation apps be used?
When you just want to make someone feel like you care, a simple sentence translated into their language at the start of your email can make such a difference. It says you’ve made an effort, you care, you respect their culture. Apps are also great for translating simple documents that aren’t sensitive in any way, and for short pieces of content you need translating quickly – quick ‘n’ dirty, if you like!
When should language translation services be used?
Language translation services are by far your best bet for anything at all that is sensitive or will be used in a professional context, including business contracts, legal documents, and Terms and Conditions. Whilst sophisticated machine translation technology (as opposed to a free app) is becoming more and more intelligent, and is certainly an option for specific circumstances, if there’s any risk of causing offence or damaging a business relationship, it’s wise to stick with an expert human translator you can trust. They’ll make sure your brand is represented accurately, you achieve the same tone of voice, your meaning is crystal clear, and any cultural essentials are taken into account. A human translator’s work is accurate, properly interpreted, reviewed and checked, creative in its expression, takes into account idiomatic differences, and is translated with skill and sensitivity even when literal translation is a challenge.
How Dialogue can help with language translation
Language translation is something we do for a wide range of different clients, all of whom trust us to get their message right first time, every time, and convey it with confidence and style. If you’d like to partner with translation experts who genuinely care about their work, unlike an app, let’s talk translation services.