3. The translation isn’t accurate. We took a simple statement – “Cut the clutter with paperless billing” and translated it into Simplified Chinese. Then we used Google Translate to back-translate it into English. The result was “Use paperless bills to reduce confusion.” Google Translate captures a gist – but it sounds stilted and unclear. And it definitely doesn’t mean the same thing.
5. Increases your risk. We’ve seen currency exchange companies, law firms and other regulated industry companies risk liability using Google translate. These are highly regulated industries that require very precise language to meet the letter of the law. Making a wrong claim or giving false or confusing information because Google Translate just gave a “gist” translation puts the company is at risk.
7. You spent time on your marketing message and Google Translate doesn’t capture the meaning. Here is an example from Mazda. The tagline in Japanese is Jinba ittai – it captures the feeling of a Japanese mounted archer. Imagine – you are one with the horse as you soar across the land. It’s that moment of perfection in the feeling of movement. A few months ago, when we first put Jinba ittai in Google Translate, it translated the phrase as “danger”. If you try it now it translates as simply “jinba”, or sometimes it says “one horse”. Either way – the meaning is wrong and lacks the feeling of the original phrase. Can you imagine Mazda using the slogan “Drive a Mazda – it’s your one-horse car”.
8. It’s not culturally appropriate. Google Translate translates the words – but what about the colors and pictures as well as the cultural references? For example, last year’s Sharper Image catalog and website featured pictures of all white models. The creators didn’t include any pictures of different colors or ethnicities. If you want to relate to your audience, you need to make sure your visuals and cultural references are appropriate.
10. Not reaching your audience. A company with the website 4tests.com offers free practice standardized tests. One of the tests is the TOEFL exam (Test of English as a Foreign Language) – the one that foreign students are required to take to be accepted to a university in the US. The website offers great advice about preparation – for example they advise not to learn English solely from movies and TV; they also advise students to study content that they’d see in a college course. Even though users may speak English well enough to comprehend this, they’ll be searching for the information in their native language. Or their parents, who will be paying for the test, may not have strong English skills and may need the information easily accessible in their native language. 4Tests.com is losing money by using Google Translate buried at the bottom of their website.
12. You can’t proofread it. Google doesn’t offer an option to proofread the machine translations. If the robot would get it right, that’s good. But what would happen if the robot would mistranslate your page? How would you fix it? For example, ConveyThis offers a way to use visual editor to make changes to your translations in real time. With well proofread pages, you can truly localize the content and improve user experience. Users would spend longer on your pages and that in turn will increase your website’s behavioral characteristics, conversions and sales.
13. It doesn’t automatically redirect to the foreign language. If your users have foreign language installed on their computer, it makes sense to redirect them to the language that matches their preferences. Why display a website in English to a Spanish speaking visitor? They won’t find your content valuable and they are less likely to look for the language switcher. They will simply leave your website prematurely and you will have a higher bounce back ratio which will hurt your organic rankings. A good localization tool like ConveyThis has this feature.
14. Inability to translate right-to-left fonts. There are 12 languages which use right-to-left directions: Arabic, Hebrew, Urdu just to name a few. Google Translate Widget although capable of translating them, it doesn’t flip the page horizontally which makes a great mess and prohibits users speaking these languages from seeing images and menus in the right place.
15. It doesn’t change image and PDF files. Sometime you have some texts written directly in your website images. Perhaps, your webmaster made some cool banners in English with great images and calls to action. However, when you translate these pages to other languages, these images still load and this creates some confusion among foreign visitors. A good translation tool as ConveyThis has ability to load translated images and PDF files to foreign users.
In conclusion, Google Translate Widget for Website is a great free alternative to paid tools. But you need to decide that would you like to accomplish and how you are going to fund it. Most non-profit and government websites may get away with free options, but commercial websites which would like to have more control over their data may want to check out other options.