Why You Should Avoid Using Google Translate on your Website

In order to make audiences from all over the world understand their content, some webmasters install a Google Translate widget on their websites, allowing users to change the language of texts using the search engine’s powerful translation tools.

In absence of a professional human translator, software can help fill the gaps and give a general idea of what is written. Google Translate is considered the best online tool to translate written content, but it is by no means a replacement to a professional translator. Businesses who strive to reach more customers whose default language is not English may be tempted to use a Google Translate widget to make their content available in other languages. That’s usually not a very good idea.

Google Translate use to be even cooler when the German voice would beatbox if you put in the right letters – now they made the horrible decision to change the voice and disable the amazingly unintentional vocal drum machine. Even though its most amazing feature is now gone, it’s still pretty cool. It can help you navigate your way through news sites and blogs in foreign countries and (kinda) understand what issues people care about in those places. It’s part of the set of technological tools that are helping build a world that is less isolated and fragmented in self-centered linguistic narcissism.

With that being said, the automated translation system has been the author of some of the worst literal translations I have ever seen, beyond what culturally insensitive humans have been able to do. The reason is that it uses literal translation, which usually ignores context. This is how rookie translators work as well, they mix and match words based on what’s in the dictionary or WordReference.com, and then they hope for the best.

Website administrators who use this technique usually do it because they think this will help them score points with international online visitors. Maybe just a little bit. Or not. First, we’ve already covered how your words can be distorted in the language the visitor has chosen to use. Do you really want your site to say something you never said? By having the site actually translated by a professional translator, you are making sure the audience understands the words with the meaning intended by their author, yourself. Another bonus point for taking this approach, is the SEO value of having content in separate root folders for the different languages your site has.

Websites have global reach and are intended to be visited by people from different countries. However, if you have a business, chances are you only need to cover two or three languages. If it’s more than that, you may start to think about having separate domains for different countries, with content written in the official language(s) of each location.

Websites dealing with the entire Canadian market need to be available in both English and French. French-speaking audiences are mindful of language as an everyday issue, and a strong lack of nuance or obvious language mistakes can be be unforgivable. English speaking audiences are also aware of content when it is not written by a native speaker, and many people cringe when they see their language being butchered by translation software.

WordPress Multilingual (WPML) is the industry standard for multilingual websites, duplicating the content of each website into a new root folder, while making the experience user-friendly for site admins, content writers and translators. Though it requires the legwork, the results can be rewarding. For instance, this post has been published in French, and I have translated it myself to make sure there is no monkey business going on.

Having a real human translator who understands linguistic subtleties and how locals use their language, can boost confidence in your brand and engage new customers to interact with your website. Context-friendly translation is just part of a flawless user experience, which in turn, will have positive effects on your business.

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