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Google Translate is the “Gateway Drug” for Translation

Machine translation and Google Translate have come a long way, but not nearly far enough. These free services are a great way to dip a toe into international markets and get a feel for whether your goods or services would be successful in other countries. It is a quick, easy way to get the gist of a translated message so that new customers can learn about your company and your products/services.


The shortfalls, though, are numerous. The grammar isn’t there yet, so the translations are clunky, and your potential customers need to read between the lines and guess at the true meaning and intention of the text. The translations are very literal, and therefore are not localized or adapted to the culture of the reader. When a word has more than one possible translation (which, believe it or not, is very common), it’s a crap-shoot as to which translation the machine will choose, and you cross your fingers that it’s the right one. When the writing is colloquial or stylized, the machine lacks the ability to translate the meaning as opposed to the words, so meaning and humor are lost. In other words – many times when you rely solely on a machine for your translation, your message is “lost in translation”.

Appropriate Uses

On the other side of the coin, machine translation is a great way to experiment and begin having a voice in a new country, or with a new customer base. When interest starts to peak, and customers start to seek more information or to purchase, this is the time to think about improving your translations to keep the ball rolling so that profits and visibility snowball toward success, and increased profits.

Learn more about creating a  Translation Management Plan.

An Example Journey

The best example of this is a story from one of our customers. His business started getting noticed in Japan and he wanted to take a closer look at the website driving business to him.  He used Google to translate the website that this new customer base was reading. Google translate said that his toys stimulated the “ass part of the brain”. 

After a little chuckle, our customer decided this wasn’t good enough and contacted Rapport International and asked for a quote to translate the entire website. It was a huge website with lots of information and references to different educational toys and products. After a consultation about his story and his needs, we recommended that he start off translating just the heart of what the Japanese customers read about his toys, thus saving time and money on his first venture into professional, high-quality translation. Then going forward, we provided a plan for expanding his translation efforts to further expand his reach in Japan.

gateway"Gateway Drug"

This is when we determined that Google Translate (or any machine translation service) is the “gateway drug” when it came to translation. It’s a way to test the market and get a feel for how your business can succeed, and it can lead toward bigger and better translation, and in-turn a bigger and better bottom line.

When your business is ready to graduate from the “gateway drug” to a full-fledged translation plan, give Rapport International a call. We will work with you to come up with the best strategic plan to make your translation program work as a fuel for success so that you can meet, and exceed, all your strategic expansion goals.

Have questions? Contact Us 

Rapport International specializes in multilingual communications, providing language translation and interpretation services that are accurate and culturally appropriate. We use the right voice and the correct terminology to avoid liability, customize services to your needs, and deliver on time and within your budget. With our 100% satisfaction guarantee, you can trust that it’s done right. Contact us today if you would like more information or to get a free quote.

Categories: Project Planning & Management, Problems & Solutions, Quality

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