Elance Blog

The Nuances Of Translation And Why You Should Hire An Expert

Don't get me wrong – online translation tools are fast, powerful, and extremely useful in a pinch, but in reality, they will never, ever replace the level of quality found in human expert translators. Dynise Basore, content creator and Italian translator on Elance, explains why you should avoid online translation tools for your business' next steps onto the global stage.

The ever increasing globalization of the job marketplace is leading to a growing need for businesses to find qualified translators for their web content, their marketing material, their contracts, and their customer service. Growth of international sales is dependent on the ability to reach your target market, identify with them, and service their needs. So, what do you do to ensure the translations you receive will have the results you are striving for?

Priority number one is to find a high-quality translator. This is an area in which you very much get what you pay for, and finding a native speaker or one who is completely fluent is absolutely essential. The money spent pays for itself exponentially, and quickly, a return on investment that is well worth a few extra dollars. But why?

When marketing to other countries, your focus is to increase your bottom line, and doing so requires that your content be geared towards not only to the language but also to the culture. And I have to reiterate: A native speaker or completely fluent translator is a must, and translation tools should absolutely never be used. Cultural differences make non-literal translations necessary for a number of reasons. The most obvious is idiomatic expressions, but beyond that, certain symbols or references have different significance in different cultures. A non-native speaker, or someone who has not lived in the country, may unintentionally commit a cultural faux-pas even if the meaning of the words are correctly translated.

Why spend the money for human translation over using a translation tool?

“Vuoi avere un bel fisico? Scolpito e senza grassi? Per avere un fisico da spiaggia avete bisogno di Superfit!! Con Superfit e un programma di esercizi sarete pronti per la spiaggia o la piscina!!! Andiamo al mare per trovare le gnocche!!”

(Sample sales copy for a non-existent fitness product with only one idiomatic expression)

Babelfish Translation:

“You want to have a beautiful physicist? Carved and without fat people? For having a physicist from beach you need Superfit! With Superfit and a program of exercises you will be ready for the beach or the swimming pool! We go to the sea in order to find the gnocche”

Google Translate Translation:

"You have a nice body? Sculpted and fat-free? To get a physical from the beach you need Superfit! Superfit with an exercise program and you're ready for the beach or the pool! We go to sea to find the gnocche!"

Human Translation:

"Do you want to have a great body? Sculpted and fat-free? To get a beach-ready body you need Superfit!! With Superfit and an exercise program you will be ready for the beach or the pool!! Let’s go to the beach to find hot girls!!"

Which translation would you want to put on your website?

The benefits of using a native speaker or completely fluent speaker of the target language are indubitable. You get not only proper grammar and the correct translation, but you also get all of the nuances that can not be achieved by either a translation tool or a non-native speaker. This is especially important in sales copy and web content where cultural relevance and plays on words come into effect. Making your copy culturally relevant will allow your message to resonate with your audience on a much larger scale.

Contract translations are also extremely important. When doing business internationally, many times the contracts will not be translated, especially in the cases of smaller businesses. Full understanding of contract details by both parties is absolutely necessary to ensure a smooth business experience. When you have access to a translator that is not only fluent in the target language but also has experience in translating legal documents, you then avoid any unforeseen legal mishaps, which could end up saving you a huge amount of time and money.

What do you look for in your provider when you need translations done? Primarily, native speaking of the target language. In a lot of cases, providers work as teams in order to provide the native speaker benefit on both sides of translations. A history of translation feedback is also important, and keep in mind that many native speakers of any given language can still make grammatical errors, so chose a provider that has experience working with jobs of the same size and scope. A degree or relevant experience in a specific field or industry are also important factors to consider. Remember that technical language for any industry can vary, so finding someone that is knowledgeable in your key areas is important. This is key as you want your copy to sound professional. Another thing to remember: Unreasonably low bids are a give-away to low quality work. The cost of quality translation is roughly equivalent to quality writing, so the bid that seems like bargain can lower the quality of your message which will cost you sales.

What does a quality translation give you that a bargain translation does not? Well written content in any language increases your sales and also provides an increase of your target market. While English is the lingua franca of business, many people who speak English will still give preference to a company that makes the effort to target them specifically. Well translated web copy will also give increased confidence in your product or service as the perception will be that the company is concerned enough about quality to take the time and effort to build a great website that caters specifically to their customers. If the company does that, then they must have that focus on the quality of their products as well. With the help of a high-quality translator, you’ll not only be able to target your audience but you’ll be able to truly take your business to the global market.

About The Author:
Dynise Basore, a content creator and Italian Translator, paired fine dining and wine with pursuing intellectual interests until realizing that combining the two in one career were the ideal solution. In the spirit of “Under the Tuscan Sun” she moved to Italy and learned to speak Italian while honing her writing chops and expanding her food and wine knowledge even more.

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I completely agree with you. For quality translations it is essential to hire a translator for whom the target language is the native language. However, it is also essential that the translator is familiar with the nuances of the original language as well as well-versed with its various idiomatic expressions.

Complimenti, Dynise!

I just want to clarify the difference between machine translation and CAT (Computer-Assisted Translation) tools. The latter allow the professional translator to manage large projects, ensuring coherence and facilitating proofreading, and have nothing to do with statistical (or "automatic") translation.

Thanks for your great article!

Maria Jose Albaya

I like your article very much, but I disagree with one point.
you said :" Another thing to remember: Unreasonably low bids are a give-away to low quality work. ".

What I have noticed here in E-lance in the past 5 months, that most buyers go with the lowest bid, no matter what! ......maybe because of the recession.....end up to ......the most professional translators now place the lowest bid.

I am one of E-lance professional translators who does love to win new work even if the price was not really satisfying.....money is not everything. sometimes the topic itself is very interesting and it will add to you in other sense.

recently, the buyer gets the most professional service with best prices, which can not be found offline.
this works pretty good for E-lance website though.
but.....it is a great free market anyways.


You gave a great example:

This is what I would do:

I would first use google to cover the volume and then get an editor to QA the document.