Sound Communication: The Holdcom Blog

Google Translate, you're (still) not fooling anyone

I'll admit it: when I was taking French in college, I occasionally used the seemingly infinite Google Translate database to look up a word here or there, instead of thumbing through my dictionary. My success was great. There was actually a point in time when I could read French. But, of course, there were people who took Google Translate a little too far. And our professor always knew. Their translations were stodgy at best and painfully incorrect at worst.

Multilingual Communication 134086144Let's face it: Online translators are a shortcut. Businesses are growing and expanding globally and the need for multilingual content is growing quickly. But when you need multilingual voice recordings, you need a professional translation service to make sure the recording is authentic and, at the very least, grammatically correct. 

But don't worry - getting translations right is no easy task - you can ask any 9th grader taking Latin to verify this fact. It's because languages have nuances that are very hard to understand if you're not completely fluent in both languages. Then, of course, there are dialects to consider. And don't even get me started on idioms! It gets very complicated, very quickly. Even big brands make major mistakes. How about When they Dairy Association took their famous "Got Milk?" ads to Mexico and mistranslated the question to... "Are you lactating?" Or when Pepsi (mis)translated their "Pepsi brings you back to life" slogan to "Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave" in China?

To avoid translation mistakes, first ditch online translators. Instead, have someone who is fluent in the language complete the translation. To ensure the translation is authentic, have a native speaker review the translation. Also watch out for cultural meaning of certain phrases. While they might be technically correct, every language has slang, which, if missed, can turn your innocent tagline into an offensive or inappropriate message.

Even if you don't think about marketing on global scale, many businesses need to incorporate multilingual materials in their day to day operations. Most commonly, these businesses need bilingual or multilingual phone system greetings or Message On Hold recordings. And while they might seem minor, something you should be able to use online translation for, remember this: if you offer native-language assistance to customers who call your business, they will expect it to be accurate and well-done. So, forget about the online translator - it's not fooling anyone.

BONUS: Hear some of our foreign language voice over talents in this episode of the Holdcom Office

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Tags: resources, multilingual