The Evolution of Translation and Consequences

When you’re dealing with static web content, you want to make sure that you’re projecting the best possible image of your business or organization. After all, static content is one of the simplest ways to provide your clients with important information for your business. But what if you have clients in different countries? What if you need to translate your web content to multiple languages? If you rely on free machine translation tools like Google Translate, you will almost certainly be disappointed with the end result.

The Cork County Council

That is exactly what happened to Ireland’s Cork County Council when they tried to translate their static web content from English to Irish (also known as Gaeilge). The local government body used Google Translate to get the job done. Unfortunately for them, residents in the area were not amused.

Many locals reported blatant errors and mistranslations in the text. Much of the original meaning was completely lost after the Council ran it through Google’s popular translation tool. According to council representatives, “neither the time nor the resources were available within the county council to translate the content, and that the cost involved in sending the content to a private company for translation would be excessive.”

While the council also claimed that it was a temporary measure until more funds could be secured, the excuse did not ring true with residents, many of whom exclusively speak Irish. The substandard translation was both insulting to native speakers, and emblematic of the apparent disregard for Irish speakers in the region.

Commissioner Domhnaill, who was in charge of investigating the Council’s actions, was equally distressed by the lack of Irish-language programming on local television. According to a different report, less than 1% of local television shows are broadcast in the Gaeilge language. While local residents might expect this kind of behavior from the entertainment industry, they were appalled to receive the same treatment from their local representatives.

2020 Democratic Candidates

Across the pond, U.S. Democratic Presidential candidates are gearing up for the 2020 election. This means sprucing up their websites and reaching out to various demographics that could help them beat their Republican opponents. However, not all of their efforts were well-received.

It is estimated that approximately 27 million Latino voters will head to the polls for the next presidential election, so candidates are scrambling to lock-in their votes. This means adapting their websites to cater to both English and Spanish native speakers. However, with the speed of the current news cycles and the fierce competition of the Democratic primary, most candidates failed to properly translate their web content.

In fact, many of the candidates opted for the quickest and cheapest option: Google Translate. American news organization, Politico, made a point to review the web content and campaign advertisements of every major candidate for errors. After analyzing the campaign announcements and websites of the Democratic candidates, Politico’s journalists quickly realized that the candidates had put little to no effort into their Spanish translations.

For example, Elizabeth Warren’s website confused the pronoun “tu” with the more formal “usted,” an error that may go unnoticed to those who speak Spanish as a second language, but one that is blatantly obvious to native speakers. While this blunder was relatively minor, other mistakes were much more noticeable. For some parts of Warren’s website, the campaign failed to offer any Spanish translations at all.

Needless to say, Warren was not the only Democratic contender who failed to communicate effectively with Spanish speakers. Thanks to a poor translation, senator Kamala Harris claimed to have “wasted” her life defending democracy, while senator Amy Klobuchar misgendered her own mother. Latino advocacy groups quickly jumped on the mistakes, and noted that the lack of effort would probably end up hurting the candidates with Spanish-speaking voters.

Alternatives to Machine Translation

So, how can businesses and governmental bodies avoid these mistakes? Whenever a politician or organization is exposed for having made this kind of blunder, they almost always point to the cost or insist that it was a “temporary measure.” However, a quality translation is actually not as expensive or time-consuming as they make it seem.

You don’t need to have an in-house translator or shell out a fortune just to get your website or important documents translated accurately. Many businesses and organizations that don’t trust machine translators choose non-native speakers instead. While this may produce a better translation than a machine, you are still risking the quality of your brand on someone who probably does not understand all the same nuances as a native speaker.

The next best option is a native speaker or linguist. This is someone who has spoken a given language their entire lives, and might even be certified to translate. Native speakers and native linguists offer a significant improvement over non-native speakers, as they can generally account for linguistic variations between regions, complex grammar, and lesser-known colloquialisms.

Translating with ITC

Here at ITC, we implement a tried-and-true approach to document and web content translation to ensure that you don’t experience any PR nightmares. Rather than using any of the aforementioned options, we employ hundreds of dual-native linguists who are certified in their field.

What exactly does this mean? It means that if you need a document translated from English to Spanish (or any number of language combinations), we have a certified linguist who is a native speaker of both English and Spanish to handle the job.

The process doesn’t stop there, though. Every translation project has a dedicated team to double-check the quality of the translation and comb-through every last word or phrase. At the International Translation Company, we leave no stone unturned.

You may be asking yourself: what about the cost? And how long will the translation process take? Thankfully, we offer competitive prices and speedy turnarounds. While the rate and length of the translation process will vary by project, we always make sure that the client comes first. Providing high-quality translations for just about any budget and timeframe is our guarantee!

Do you need a translation by dual-native linguists? Contact us to get a quote today!

By Allison Baillieston | April 15, 2019 | Categories: ITC | No Comments

About the Author: Allison Baillieston