7 reasons not to use an automatic translator

If you are targeting international markets for your business, you will inevitably have to go through the “translation” process of your external communications: press releases, advertisements, brochures, etc. But that means extra costs and you might be tempted to lighten your budget by using automated Chinese translation tools that are blooming online.

 reasons not to use an automatic translator

If these tools can be useful for you to understand an email sent by a foreign supplier or customer, using it in your external communication is a trap to avoid absolutely! Here is a list, not exhaustive, of the reasons not to use an automatic Chinese translator in a professional setting:


Unlike a “human” Chinese translator, an automatic Chinese translator does not recognize the context of a document.


1. Who wrote it, for what audience, for what purpose, what style to use? There are so many questions that a human Chinese translator poses to direct his translation. This avoids many misinterpretations that could be detrimental to the credibility of your business.


2. If you plan to start from an automatic translation, which will then be proofread and corrected by someone internally, you underestimate the loss of time (and therefore money) that this implies. It is much harder and longer to rework a text translated into Chinese than to translate the original text directly. This is a false economy that you will realize.


3. Some machine translators use English as the “bridge language” between two languages. Instead of translating your text from Japanese to Chinese, for example, the automatic translator will translate from Japanese to English, then from English to Chinese.


4. The risk of error is therefore much greater. It’s a bit like the game of the Arabic phone: the more intermediaries and the more the final message is distorted.


5. Despite some recent improvements, a machine is not going to systematically make the right choices of Chinese translation between different meanings for the same word. And even if ambiguities are reported by some automatic translators, you will get an unfinalized translation that will have to be reworked by a competent reviewer.


6. Also, professional Chinese translation agencies or even freelance Chinese translators ensure a re-reading of their work by a third party. This ensures optimum quality that you will never have with an automatic translator.


7. Finally, in advertising translation, an automatic translator will not tell you if a slogan or a product name goes well in the targeted country. This is a job that must be done by a marketing team in collaboration with professional Chinese translators who are familiar with the target language and country. Many car brands have fallen into the trap of automatically translating or not translating the names of their car models. Result: words with double meaning or vulgar connotations, such as the famous example of the 4 × 4 Pajero of Mitsubishi which means “masturbation” in the Spanish-speaking countries! Not really a great selling point…



In the end, if automatic translation can be an interesting tool, for external communication of a company, it is not performing well and is mostly a waste of time and money. Translation by professionals must be seen as a genuine investment that contributes to the growth of the company abroad.