Friends don’t let friends use Google Translate – most of the time

We live in an increasingly-automated world. It’s important to see how automation—like machine translation—can make things better / easier / cheaper, but it’s also important to recognize where human input matters.

I’ve written elsewhere that friends don’t let friends use Google Translate. Machine translation doesn’t understand nuance. Though increasingly sophisticated, it continues to produce awkward sentences, strange syntax and overly-literal translation; in the business context, when your brand is on the line, or when mistranslation can have tremendous consequences, Google Translate and other machine translation platforms just don’t cut it. That being said, it absolutely serves a purpose in a pinch, and as I describe here, Google Translate helped an American journalist and a French UN Peacekeeper fall in love.  You really can’t complain about that!

I was happy to see yet another example of where machine translation came in handy: facilitating the friendship between two California 10-year olds. Rafael Anaya, who had just arrived from Mexico and who spoke only Spanish, sat alone at lunch for his first ten days in his new school. Classmate Amanda Moore tried to reach out to him, but without a common language, was unsuccessful.  She decided to use Google Translate to write him a note, and she handed it to him the next day:

“Hello Rafael, would you like to sit with me today. Look for me and I will show you where I sit. We could be coloring or just telling scary stories. Thanks for your time. Signing, Amanda.”

The Spanish was far from perfect, but the message was clear—as evidenced by the hug Rafael gave Amanda and the friendship that it sparked. Machine translation can help make immediate connections between people and across language, but when it comes to your business needs, it pays to work with professionals.  Reach out to us to talk about how professional translation can help ensure that your voice and brand are part of the message, in any language (even if there aren’t always be hugs waiting for you on the other side).

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