Automated translation in content creation
Rise of the Machines ... or not?
Welcome to a world where language barriers and cultural boundaries disappear in seconds, as if by magic. How? With a simple click on the language switch toggle. In the world of online content translation, time and space don’t seem to exist – at least not for users. The situation is quite different for website owners, though. What looks like pure magic on the frontend is based on a complex and sometimes time-consuming process, namely: content translation and localisation.
This presents us with a critical problem: The correct – and above all skilful – translation of content is more important than ever these days. Almost as important, however, is the efficiency with which these translations are created.
We’ve all been there: An event announcement in the newsletter needs to be sent out immediately. Crucial facts and figures about the company or products have changed, and now they need to be published on the website as quickly as possible. Sometimes time is of the essence, and you might be tempted to translate texts with Google Translate, DeepL or ChatGPT for the sake of simplicity and speed. What’s more, it’s also cheaper ...
But are AI-generated translations – for example, those created with ChatGPT – really worth the hype? Let’s find out!
Many companies nowadays hold the belief that they can effortlessly achieve swift, budget-friendly translations with the help of AI tools. Some also love the idea of being particularly progressive and innovative. As a content marketing agency, however, we advise against relying solely on tools. You’ll find out why in a moment! But before we delve into the specifics, let’s examine the pros and cons of automated translation.
Advantages of automated translation
- Time saving: Automated translations allow for quick and efficient translation of large amounts of text.
- Cost efficiency: Compared to the services of human translators, automated solutions are often more cost-effective.
- Immediate availability: Translations are available almost in real time.
Disadvantages of automated translation
- Quality risk: Translation quality is not as high as with human translation, which can lead to misunderstandings or incorrect information.
- Lack of cultural adaptation: Automated translations cannot always correctly reflect cultural nuances and context.
- Lack of emotion and creativity: Translation tools have a limited ability to capture emotion and don’t do well with creative language such as wordplays, which can affect the impact of a message.
- Limited subject knowledge: For specialised content that requires subject-specific knowledge, automated translation may have its limitations.
- Privacy concerns: The use of some automated translation tools could raise concerns about the confidentiality of sensitive content.
- Lack of consistency: Depending on the tool, automated translation may lead to inconsistent use of terminology across different texts.
Automated translations help save time and resources – but the devil is usually in the detail. Machines may be fast, but they often fail to capture the subtle nuances and cultural differences of a language. So the supposed magic of content translation can quickly go out the window.
Imagine your advertising message suddenly becoming a bad joke in another language. Even worse: What if it has a negative impact on the brand image and credibility of your company, possibly even legal ramifications? A nightmare scenario for brands.
That’s why, for us, the same principle applies as always: It’s not about more content but about better content! A high standard of quality is paramount in content marketing. As tempting as the advantages may sound, the risk of an incorrect, cringy or even shitstorm-worthy translation is simply too great with 100% automated translations. That’s why we would never advise our clients to translate something themselves using a tool – if anything, perhaps, the restaurant menu while on holiday in Croatia. But that’s about it.
We’ve already shared some examples from the category “Lost in Translation” in our article on the biggest translation fails.
Okay, let’s be real here: Machine-assisted translation is not all that “new”. Everyone who has been working in the field of translation for a few years knows: Tools that translators can use for support have been around for a while. Before Google Translate or DeepL made their grand entrance in the translation arena, CAT tools and corpora were all the rage. The emphasis in this case, however, lies on: tools for support! In technical jargon, this process is called “MTPE” – i.e. machine translation with post-editing (by professional translators or post-editors).
Efficiency meets creativity
Automated translations certainly have their place and can be very helpful in some – but by no means in all – cases. If you know what you are doing, you can use them to create a rough first draft. This initial draft then needs to be carefully checked for accuracy, revised and “fine-tuned”.
The advantage: Translators no longer have to focus quite as much of their attention on the more “mundane” aspects of the translation. This frees up cognitive resources and extra time to devote to researching technical terms or fine-tuning the creative aspects of the text. For instance, puns, precise formulations, witty headlines and effective CTAs ...
And what about ChatGPT as a translation tool?!
At the moment, you can hardly get around the topic of AI and ChatGPT. So let’s briefly address the question, “Why can’t I use ChatGPT for my translations?” Our answer: You could – but don’t expect too much from it! It will probably do a decent job at quickly translating an e-mail.
However, there are translation tools out there that work much better than ChatGPT. Some AI- and machine-learning-based tools have been on the market for over a decade, were designed specifically for translation and are constantly evolving. ChatGPT hasn’t been able to catch up with them yet, so the quality level of ChatGPT translations is still very much below that of other providers.
Regardless of this: In all the years working as translators, we have never come across a tool that gave us a translation that we were 100 per cent happy with. All the tools we have tested so far produce translations that are too close to the source text – which makes them sound unnatural. Obvious translation errors are also not uncommon. That’s why any tool-generated translation requires comprehensive and in-depth post-editing and revision.
Without blowing our own trumpet too much, the “human touch” is indispensable when translating. Especially when it comes to understanding the nuances of a language, handling them with plenty of (cultural) sensitivity and conveying emotions accurately.
In other words: We can definitely still one-up machines in some crucial aspects! We can grasp the overall context – not just that of the text or website but of your brand, your target audience and the cultural environment. We are able to set the right tone, evoke the right emotions and skilfully present your products or services.
By the way, it doesn’t matter whether a tool was used in the first step or not. Every translator proceeds differently and prefers to work either with tools, without tools or only sometimes with tools. What counts is the final product: appealing texts that provide added value and impress both users and Google!
Want your texts to pack a punch and resonate with your readers – in English as well as in German?
Then it pays to team up with someone who knows exactly how to achieve that. Our creative crew of copywriters at punkt & komma is happy to help you with writing and translating your content – with lots of skill, sure instinct and that essential human touch!