A recent addition on social media has been an integrated translation option. If you have friends whose primary language is not English, you may - out of curiosity, clicked "see translation" under posts and still do not know what they are actually saying.
You will also be familiar with comedy posts from entertainment sites, where automated translation services have been used for anything from restaurant menus to supermarket signs, sometimes with staggering and inaccurate results.
Lost in TranslationWhat you will have realized from these automated efforts is that a computer program is far from foolproof. No matter how well-conceived, a computer translation program doesn't have the sense of romance or idiom with regard to language that a native speaker does.
Also, it's difficult to explain to a computer that cultural norms might dictate a different form of speech to the default results. A worrying trend in business would suggest these very real concerns are being overlooked in order to save money, which can bring about potentially disastrous results.
Spend on a Real HumanAlthough you might think that your standard business text might be quite safe in the hands of an automated translation program, stop and think for a moment about those comedy posts mentioned above. Many of them come from serious businesses who have no doubt felt that cutting this particular corner was a smart saving.
Instead, they're a laughing stock, and may even have lost some credibility with overseas clients, as well as competitors who hired a professional for accurate translation services.
There's also the massive assumption that the text requiring translation makes sense in the first place. If your original writer doesn't have a perfect grasp of grammar and punctuation, the text may not have been sense-checked adequately even before the automated program gets hold of it.
A real translator will have considerable skill as an editor, and will pick these errors up as par for the course.