Competing with Google Translator

Competing with Google Translator

google translator

The main competitor of every translator on today’s market is undoubtedly Google.  It’s certainly a useful tool – although most clients are now savvy enough to realize that Google translations are not good enough for public consumption when reflecting on corporate images (annual reports, investment prospectuses, websites etc.).  But it is surely the quickest and cheapest option for texts used only in-house (letters, emails, memos, reports and updates among departments in different countries), slashing translation services market work volumes (and consequently translator incomes) by at least half.  No human brain can compete with zero cost and TATs (turnaround times) measured in minutes rather than hours or days.

BUT … here’s the good news! In contrast with Human Translation Machine translation is still unable to produce polished output that accurately reflects the nuances of source texts.  No matter how huge a TM (translation memory) database may be, it cannot ‘hear’ pace, rhythm and tone. Far less can it produce prose that is appealing, enlightening and enlivening enough to attract readers and grip their attention.  So here are a few ideas on how to out-quality Google Translate.

Caveat: these suggestions are focused primarily on upgrading your style in English, although they may also work to some extent in other languages.  

  • Alliteration – this translation technique uses two or more words that begin with the same sound to add subtle stress to a phrase, often in more colorful (and more memorable) words.  The Beatles knew this: ‘Whisper words of wisdom, let it be …’ resonates far longer than a straightforward ‘Talk sensibly, leave it alone’!
  • Assonance – similar to alliteration but less striking, assonance repeats vowel sounds within a sentence or phrase: ‘on fleet feet’ is certainly more appealing than the mundane ‘walking fast’.
  • Archetype – when citing a well-known person or object to convey additional meaning, archetypes are easy to internationalize for easier identification.  For example, replace Brazil’s ‘Marilia and Dirceu’ with ‘a pastoral Romeo and Juliet’ for instantly illustrating a doomed-love situation for readers all over the world.
  • Euphemism – the translator’s friend when the source language might be strong or even aggressive.  Opting for a word that is less heavily charged in the target language can avoid difficulties in the future: ‘tipsy’ is a bland option, while the more literal ‘drunken’ might be offensive.
  • Onomatopoeia – this can be tricky, as the underlying sounds are obviously the same, but are spelt differently in various languages: ronronnement could be buzz, hum or purr, but you have human super-powers to pick the appropriate noise for your context.  

So … to compete effectively with Google, scatter these literary devices throughout your translations, but sparsely for maximum effect – think tabasco, not mayonnaise!

More on Human Translation here…

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