Automatic translation – what can and cannot do

An office day like any other: emails have come from a new partner in Japan and a demand request from a major customer in Helsinki or Milan. Your responding employee does so in English: cross-border communication is on the agenda in all countries. Although you, in certain correspondence in English, sometimes do not understand Pio, you believe that nowadays there is no problem: simply enter the text received in the machine translation program and in the blink of an eye it will be shown in the selected language. Simple as this, isn’t it? True, if not because success in business also depends on correct communication…

In the era of globalization there is more need for translation than ever: international business transactions, correspondences, contracts, transcripts, offers, documentations, websites etc. Likewise, the length of texts has increased greatly. However, ordering all translations from translators or Translation Agencies is often not possible, either due to lack of time or budgetary reasons.

You should know to what extent you can rely on a automatic translation, and what you can expect from it – and when to request the services of a professional translator. Because everything you communicate has repercussions on your image. And because, depending on the country, the treatment of people, the structuring and legibility of your texts are crucial criteria for establishing a later commercial relationship – and therefore for the success of your own business.

Free translation tools, such as Google Translate and other professional translation programs, are available on the market – with great qualitative differences – and are continuously updated, optimized and expanded, for example, with respect to specific industry-specific requirements.

We have allowed ourselves to summarize in a table the most significant advantages and disadvantages:

Advantages of automatic translation Disadvantages of automatic translation
Cost very cheap and even free Is usually lacking fluency, and the construction of sentences often causes the text to be incomprehensible
Always available Only translates words and does not have the ability to “read between the lines” or to emphasize the most important aspects of a text
Ability to translate large amounts of text in a minimum time Inability to differentiate between words or grammatical compositions that may have different meanings, for example between “bank” as a financial institution or as a piece of furniture, or between “adjusting a machine” or ” settling accounts”
It translates into multiple languages, simply by pressing a button It often provides excessively long and meaningless phrases
Professional programmes often require that the texts they produce be thoroughly reviewed, especially as regards the use of the specialized terms of each sector

Conclusion: if you value well-structured, understandable and easily readable texts, you must entrust the work of your translation to a professional. And if you use an automatic translator, you will need at least someone to review and adapt the translated text before publication.


Additional advice in case of large volumes of text

If you have large amounts of text to translate, you should decide, after careful selection by a particular professional translation program. For standardized texts, for example, those for simple manuals, these programmes can provide acceptable results.

Not recommended: automatic translation of texts intended for marketing and advertising

For the translation of texts intended for marketing or advertising activities, automatic translation programs are not suitable, as they are only able to translate words, but not to correctly transmit sublimated messages through the fine language or the choice of key or emblematic words. However, for simple communications, machine translation can often achieve satisfactory results.


Attention to legal texts, such as contracts and the like!

Do not try – under any circumstances – to automatically translate legal texts! The contents of these texts are excessively complex – and errors lead inexorably, either to a considerable waste of time due to multiple mutual clarifications, to the loss of a cause or even to costly legal consequences.

This content has been published originally by ALPHATRAD-SPAIN at the following address: If you are thinking of making use of it, please quote the source and link to the original note from where you have taken this content.