Updated: May 21
You have heard that there is a wide choice of translators (or interpreters), text translation companies, freelance translators, translation software, and now free internet translation service providers, like Google translate … to name but a few. You have a restricted budget. You are under time pressure. You are tempted to go for what appears to be a quick, easy and cost-effective option. If English is not understood by your target customer and you are on a budget, you might be drawn to using “translation software” or an interpreter.
You may consider that current translation software is the panacea. It delivers results mechanically and is usually available free of charge from main search engines. This may be adequate for simple routine questions, e.g. details of a trip. However, you need to validate that this software would also work for your website, catalogue, leaflets, documentation, and any promotion or advertising that requires sophisticated language. Literal translation may either not be understood by your customers, or engage them, if it lacks the emotional dimension. There may be nuances and moods which you need to convey using, for example, rhyme, sarcasm, humour, metaphor, context, drama, etc. You need to be … human, not a robot, to “CAPTCHA” them. Translation software is unable to articulate the second or third level meanings, i.e. the emotional intelligence, behind words, phrases or sentences. Actually, there are many native speakers who might not “get it” either … possibly through a lack of education or a disconnect with current culture.
Naturally face-to-face business conversations in a language you do not speak well enough, or at all, may prompt the services of an interpreter. A full understanding of what your potential partners wish to convey (or conceal) requires more than mere verbal interpretation. It is well known that there are three different components of communication: only 7% of the meaning is transmitted through words, 38% is through voice tone, and 55% comes through body language. Any incongruence between these three components may reveal a hidden agenda in a negotiation where authenticity and trust are paramount.