I wrote an article three years ago and thought it's about time to revisit the topic, as Google has recently tweaked Google Translate (GT). Despite GT's technological advances, the problem continues to be Google's underlying—and completely false—assumption that languages are like mathematics: input language A + run through algorithm = language B.
Language A + GT's algorithm does NOT equal Language B
Languages are infinitely complex and cannot be reduced to mathematical algorithms, so using a mathematical approach to “solve” the translation puzzle doesn't make sense at all.
And the results speak for themselves. GT's literal, word-for-word approach still fails miserably when it comes to translating slogans. Compare these three French slogans translated into English by GT versus a professional human translator:
Despite the enhanced algorithms, GT still can't understand the subtleties of language and is unable to intelligently “trans-create” slogans, which are chock full of cultural references, idioms, word play and jokes—all lost in translation. Without understanding and intelligence, GT will continue to mistranslate your marketing material—often with embarrassing results.
While Google is currently developing Artificial Intelligence (AI) right here in downtown Montreal, AI is still a long way from replacing human translators, as many creative and stylistic decisions have to be made in the translation process. Particularly when it comes to creative translation, professional human translators won't be made obsolete by AI or GT any sooner than writers, directors or artists—AI just isn't that intelligent!
As Hugo Hazelton, Governor General award-winning translator, explains:
“Good translation is all about precision and naturalness. Computer programs such as Google Translate can only offer an approximate version of the source text, without the complex and very human skills involved in true translation. A human translator brings the full range of his or her professional and creative skill to bear when translating a text, interpreting meaning, fine tuning for tone and register, adjusting for ambiguities or opacity in the source text, and improving the style if necessary.”
To sum up, GT is completely useless for translating your marketing material because:
Therefore, a professional human translator—not GT—is the only one you can trust to truly understand and intelligently convey your important advertising messages.
Myles McKelvey, Certified Translator, MA Trans.
McKelvey Communications - www.CertifiedTranslators.ca
Translation - Editing - Copywriting
Phone: 514 483-6833 | Toll-free: 1 855 783-6833
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1 The French version is a pun on the Quebecois expression “aubaines” (special offers). The English version uses wordplay on the expression “meals on wheels.”
2 “Dictionnore” is a combination of two words: “dictionnaire” (dictionary) + “sonore” (sound). Similarly, “musictionary” is a combination of two words: “music” + “dictionary.”
3 “Calfeunêtrez” is a pun on the word “calfeutrer” (to make draftproof).” “Draft not included” is a fun new twist on typical advertising lingo.
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