Reducing translation costs is a major business concern for any company that works internationally. Having your marketing materials and business communications translated and localized is essential to sell across language barriers, but some companies can struggle to find the budget for professional translation services.
Indeed, many ecommerce businesses rely upon machine translation programs, such as Google Translate, for reducing their translation costs when translating their websites between languages. Google Translate even has an API (Application Programming Interface) for the simple, automated machine translation of website content.
However, there are a couple of glaring issues with using Google Translate for your foreign language ecommerce websites. First off, machine translation is prone to errors, and does not benefit from the local knowledge or subtlety of a human translator. If you’ve used a machine translation program before, you’ve probably noticed that the translated content is often stilted and incomplete, which is no good for “business critical” content such as ecommerce websites – you look unprofessional.
On top of the quality issues, Google is now charging for the use of its translation API (it revoked free usage for web developers in mid-2011). The service is available at a reasonable cost ($20 per million characters, or around 0.05c word), but when you consider that the paid-for service produces translations of negligible quality, you have to wonder if there isn’t a reasonable middle ground between machine translation and professional human translation.
Fortunately, there is. Post-Edited Machine Translation (PEMT) is a process in which content is translated by a software engine, and then edited afterwards by a human translator to pick up any serious errors or omissions. The process works best for high volume technical documents with a large amount of repeated terminology (creative texts are definitely not recommended), and it does not guarantee the same high quality levels as 100% human translation, but PEMT does offer an achievable middle ground between un-edited, error-prone machine translation and professional human translation. The final result may not be polished, but it will be accurate and reliable.