Why it is worth it to hire professional translators and stop relying on Google Translate, Reverso, Babbel, etc.
Have you ever read some assembly instructions for a piece of furniture, a toy, or some other product, and you ran across a statement like: “First, oscillate the fastener right until tight.” This is still comprehensible to a native speaker for the most part, though “oscillate” instead of “turn” implies movement to two directions. But what if “tight” is supposed to be “hand tighten”? There is a distinct difference, as any person who has ever assembled anything knows: tighten a screw a little too much, and you might strip the two parts you are joining together.
One of the unfortunate consequences of machine translation technology is that some translation firms and independent translators use machine translators (e.g. Google Translate) to provide a rough draft translation of a project before starting with their own translation, in order to reduce lead time and costs. This often results in unintentional word choices that are not easily caught or always noticed, incorrect syntax that causes confusion, and words whose significance in the original language is lost in the translation, which can change the meaning of the document in a way that makes it difficult to understand even for a native speaker of the target language. Translation is an artform, and words do matter. So that very attractive bid from a translation firm that seems too good to be true, might well be the beginning of a massive headache that costs you and your firm more money in the long run.
As a final example, consider the following brief passage in German and English translation (machine and person):
“Da ich, wie ich mich damals immer daran erinnert habe, genau so getan hatte, als wäre das ganze Leben irgendein schlechter Witz und ich...ich war die Quelle eines furchtbaren Stückes, dessen Handlung absurd jenseits des Fassungsvermögen aller Menschen war, kam ich nie mit dem Tod meines Vaters zurecht.”
“Since, as I always remembered back then, I had pretended as if my whole life was some kind of bad joke and I ... I was the source of a terrible piece, the action of which was absurd beyond everyone's imagination, I came never cope with my father's death.”
“Because, as I always remembered at the time, I acted precisely as if life was some kind of bad joke, and I…I was the source of a terrible play, whose plot was absurd beyond everyone’s comprehension, I never came to terms with the death of my father.”
Clearly, this quote is more literary in nature, and requires a more nuanced approach that considers context, just as more care is needed when translating technical manuals. Although machine translation has come a long way and AI is certainly aiding in better translations than even 10 years ago, it is a question of attention to detail and nuance (i.e. quality) when it comes to getting an accurate translation.