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Why a human translation always surpasses an automated one

Some of my friends have been wondering about this new turn of events. Starting your own translation agency seems a bit overkill. You might think that I am a bit biased, well of course I am, I try to make it as a translator. So naturally I would say there is still a market for my expertise. However if you try and follow my train of thought you might actually find yourself agreeing on certain points. And if you disagree then at least I hope I have given you something to think about.

Nowadays everyone can type in the address of a translation site, copy their texts and just click on a button. However, even though I agree that some of these sites actually know how to create a complete translation, that is “arguably” readable, you cannot just upload the automated translation to your site without raising a few eyebrows from the readers. That is not a big deal, now is it. You just let some employee read the texts and adjust them both verbally and grammatically. That shouldn’t take them too long. And that’s where I think you might be wrong. Most people are not as fluent in English as they imagine themselves to be. Mainly because it is not a daily part of their routine to either read or write in English.

The proper use of the tenses, the usage of commas and the like. These and many more are not something they deal with on a daily base. Most languages have their own, and very different rules, for example concerning the structuring of their sentences. And don’t even get me started on sayings, expressions and metaphors. Those do not translate well.

So you are still stuck with a text that might not be as readable as you imagine. And let us not forget the costs. Now say that it has only taken an hour. Can you honestly say that the hourly wage you pay the person is lower than paying a translator? You might, but remember that the person doing this, could have spent his/her time on a project and actually making money.

And here is another main selling point. If you don’t like the translation or if you find it to be incorrect. You just tell the translator to try again. He (or she) is a third party, so you pay them for their services and you can expect to be satisfied. It is a lot easier to tell of someone you don’t have to see on a daily base. Because if you hurt the feelings of one your employees, by saying their English bites, erm, I mean is not very good. Well, that might not go over well.

As the Dutch would say: “Let the cobbler stick to his last.” A prime example of a proverb that does translate well. It’s something along the line of: every man his own trade. Write what you know, in a language you’re familiar with and let someone else do the translations. It’s quicker, cheaper, easier and you’ll get the results you want.

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