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Why Translation Programs Fail: 5 Common Pitfalls to Avoid

by Lilt  Han Mai, Associate Director, Demand Generation  ·  Localization, Translation, Cultural Nuances, Pitfalls

Translation programs are designed to make communication easier across language barriers, but they often fall short of expectations. In this article, we'll explore the common pitfalls that can lead to program failure and provide tips on how to avoid them. 

1. Quality Issues: The primary goal of any translation program is to produce accurate translation for its readers. One of the most significant reasons translation programs fail is the lack of quality in the translated content. The quality of translation often suffers due to automated processes that rely on algorithms and databases, which may not capture the cultural nuances inherent in human language. Poorly translated content can lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and even damage to your brand reputation. To avoid this, it's essential to set up a quality standard threshold that your vendor or AI translation must meet.

2. Turnaround Time: Businesses need translations quickly to meet deadlines and respond to immediate needs. For example, time is of the essence for the National Weather Service, which needs immediate localization for imminent weather forecasts such as a hurricane warning. A slow turnaround time in their case would be disastrous; it is essential to find a solution that offers fast turnaround time without compromising on quality. AI-driven translation solutions promise faster turnaround times, but they need human supervision. 

3. High Cost: Translation programs can be expensive, especially if your business requires frequent or extensive translation work. While there are many free or low-cost translation tools available, they often lack the quality and accuracy needed for professional use. Look for a translation solution that offers competitive pricing without sacrificing quality.

4. AI Translation Output Isn't Accurate: While AI translation has made significant strides in recent years, AI-powered translation tools still struggle with accuracy, especially in languages with complex grammatical structures that still require human expertise. AI models can misinterpret context, leading to mistranslations that can alter the meaning of the original text. This is particularly problematic in fields like medicine, law, and technology, where precision is critical.

5. Better Brand Alignment Required: For businesses, the translation is not just about conveying information; it's also about maintaining brand consistency. Translation programs that fail to align with a brand's voice and tone can confuse its audience. This is particularly important for companies operating in multiple countries or targeting diverse cultural groups. A one-size-fits-all approach to translation can result in content that fails to resonate with local audiences, undermining brand alignment and marketing efforts.

Translation programs are a vital tool in today's global world, but their effectiveness is often hampered for all the reasons listed above. AI translation tools should not only translate text but also understand and convey the nuances of human language, align with brand values, and meet the needs of users across different sectors and contexts. 

The Human Advantage: Human translators, armed with cultural understanding and industry expertise, can deliver translations that are:

  • Accurate and idiomatic: They capture the true meaning and intent of your message while sounding natural in the target language.

  • Engaging and on-brand: They translate the essence of your brand voice, fostering stronger connections with your target audience.

The future of translation programs is not one or the other, but a team effort: human translators + AI. While machine training continues to evolve, it's best seen as a tool to complement human expertise, not replace it. The most effective translation strategies leverage AI for basic tasks while entrusting critical messaging and brand alignment to the nuanced understanding of human translators. This winning combination ensures clear, impactful communication that builds trust and drives success across borders.