Translation is the act of transferring written text from one language into another. It is a complex process, involving linguistic, cultural, and personal factors. Ideally, a translated product will sound native to the target audience.
Human and machine translation – what is the difference?
With technological progress and state-of-the-art translation tools, there is one key difference to consider: translation can be performed by a human translator or by means of automated, i.e. machine translation. There is also the option of combining the two methods.
The professional human ranslator should fully understand the source text and the relevant context for the translated content. Human translation specifically addresses stylistic levels and is able to decipher emotional meaning behind the source text. Ideally, the translator is a native speaker of the target language and a subject matter expert (SME) in the subject area of the translation. This combination ensures a sensitive and accurate translation that should read as though it were composed in the target language.
Machine translation originated with translation memories built through software used by translators. It progressed to large scale attempts to ‘teach’ computers vocabulary and syntax for each language, a highly intensive and counter-intuitive process. With the advent of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), algorithms were developed that could ‘learn’ language by parsing usage and context. This improved the quality and range of machine translation almost overnight, making it more useful for basic translation requirements.
Machine translation is still limited by the complexities of our use of language, nuance, and colloquial speech. It is not unusual for machine translation to be used in conjunction with human translation, especially when there are high volumes of content to be translated into multiple languages.
Why is translation essential for global interaction?
Translation, throughout history, has been central to doing business with other cultures. When writing became the standard for record-keeping, translation served to help important knowledge circulate across language barriers. The result was a shared set of standards for transacting business that built trust, enabled monetary exchange, and eliminated misunderstandings between markets and businesses. Its importance has grown as modern communication and transportation make the planet a smaller and more unified place.
Quality translation goes beyond business-to-business (B2B) communication. Ultimately, all business is done one on one, from person to person, regardless of borders. Humans are extraordinarily sensitive to language usage and a quality translation shows respect for the culture of the reader. This quality is measured by the accuracy and cultural relevance of the translated text. This sends a message to customers in other languages that you and your business respect their needs.
Language can be both a barrier and a connector. Effective translation bridges divides and offers global access to information, innovation, and the opportunity for international collaboration. Poor translation does the opposite, potentially creating confusion or even limiting a company’s ability to thrive in a given market.
There are additional measurable benefits to having a strong translation policy. It ensures clear communication between business units, consistency in guidelines and onboarding material for employees and contractors around the world, as well as high-quality technical documentation. It is the critical first step to global success, putting any business on the same level as potential partners, stakeholders, and customers, regardless of location.
How can translation benefit a business?
Translation will allow you to communicate effectively and clearly with staff in business units abroad, help you with organizational documentation (e.g. legal or financial reports) that might be required for operating in a foreign market, and helps you provide technical content support across markets.
It is recommended that you develop a translation glossary to be used in connection with your products and services, based on the terminology you have chosen in your domestic language. A glossary serves as a set of guidelines for usage by your translation and localization teams. In addition, accurate translation of foreign legal frameworks, financial records, and business requirements, into your domestic language will ensure that your headquarters are up to speed on any developments with a direct impact on your operations abroad.