Will Free Online Translator
Meet Your Business Needs?

As any technology, a free online translator is neither good nor bad. It is just a tool. And it all depends on how and with what purpose you use it. If applied properly, such free language translator can save your business time and money because it offers the fastest and cheapest way to get a translation. On the other hand, if you ignore limitations that any machine translation system has, you will inevitably fail.

Why to use?

According to the available data, of the world's 6.7 billion population, only 20-30% can speak English to some level of competence. And among Internet users (the current number of whom is 1.7 billion worldwide), only 27.6% are English speaking people, as is reported by Internet World Stats.

So, to reach new markets, businesses need to speak their customers' and partners' native language - both offline and online. However, not all businesses have enough time or budget to afford flawless and polished professional translations by human translators. And not all translations should be flawless and polished. For example, translations produced for gisting or information purposes should not be.

Limits of free online translator

There are dozens of free online translators. Some are bilingual, but the majority is multilingual. They are the result of more than fifty years of research. But they still do not work well. Why? Because translation depends on the unique human capacity of interpreting meaning and conveying sense within the given context. Machines can not do this. They can only use a set of lexical, semantic and syntactical rules and matching efforts to propose an equivalent in the target language. Actually, it is not a translation in its proper sense.

When to use?

For professional translators, it is obvious that the quality of machine translation is still poor. This generates jokes among translators and translation agencies. One can come across websites of linguists showing monstrous howlers that crowd raw machine translation output to suggest it is useless.

However, with their time and volume constraints, professional translators are not able to meet a great demand for translations. Human translation is a time-consuming and labor-intensive job. On average, a human translator produces 200-400 words per hour. However, the amount of information that circulates each hour in the world is measured in billions of words, and often businesses need an urgent access to it. It is absurd to think that the worldwide community of human translators will ever meet such a huge demand.

There are plenty of ways in which businesses can use a free online translator effectively and creatively. For example:

- to facilitate Internet searches for information

- to help in Internet research and identification of prospective partners

- to pre-select materials to be translated by human translators at a later stage

- to pre-translate materials to be post-edited by human professionals

When NOT to use?

Never use a free online translator to translate sensitive, important materials, such as advertisements, product descriptions, company mission statements, annual reports, official letters and any documents, mistranslation of which could have legal consequences or could undermine the corporate image, unless you use a human translator to post-edit raw translation output produced by the free online translator.

Furthermore, this human translator must be a native speaker of the language into which the document is translated and she/he must have several years of experience in the subject area of your document (e.g. medicine, law, finance, engineering, marketing, social sciences, etc.).

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_____________________________________________________________________ Website owner: Irina Lychak, self-employed freelance linguist, Russian translator, Ukrainian translator, Kiev (Kyiv), Ukraine

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