Not all problems arising from language barriers result in life or death situations like the following humorous skit:
Before I go on, this video is entitled, “The World’s Worst Translator,” but this guy is not a translator, he’s an interpreter. Those who convert spoken language interpret, while those who convert written language translate. I know, you probably couldn’t care less, but this is a pet peeve among translators and interpreters. A good translator might not necessarily be a good interpreter, and vice versa. The professions require different skill sets.
In any case, I recently wrote an article about machine translation and why it doesn’t cut it for business translations. Read it here if you’re interested. In it, I took a random sentence written by a Japanese friend on Facebook and ran it through several popular machine translation services. All of them produced less-than-satisfactory results. Machines don’t understand nuance, and in a language such as Japanese which often infers the subject rather than explicitly stating it, it’s nearly impossible for a machine to come up with the correct subject.
If you just want to get the gist of something for personal use, machine translation is probably fine. You might just want to find out a price or whether a company ships something internationally. However, if you’re wanting to bring in customers, you’re not going to inspire confidence if your descriptions are riddled with inaccuracies and grammatical mistakes. Reverse the roles, and think about it: Would you be more likely to make a purchase from a site that said “Yes, we ship internationally!” or one that said, “Yes, you ship to outside your home!” This is what the text could end up looking like to readers of your translated material when you use machine translation.
Do you have something you need translated into or from Japanese? Give me a shout at Carmical Translations.