It's hard to believe that only a few years ago, the massive hive of knowledge and information known as the Internet existed only in our wildest dreams. Back in those days, you couldn’t just whip out your smartphone and immediately read a breaking news story or find a hundred different recipes for banana bread. If you had trouble recalling the lyrics to Billie Jean, and no one in your immediate vicinity knew them either, you just had to live with that. For many of us, that time is only a distant memory — and for younger generations, the very idea is difficult to comprehend.
As access to the Internet has become increasingly widespread, evolving digital technologies have changed the way we seek out and share information, often rendering the once immutable boundaries of time and space irrelevant. We have become accustomed to being able to search online for an episode of a TV show from twenty years ago, a cat video that was filmed halfway across the world, or an article written for an online newspaper in a country we’ve never visited.
One of the benefits of this increased access to information is the way it has managed to bring people from widely different places closer together, enabling us to share our lives and interests with one another across great distances. As we become increasingly influenced by and involved with other cultures, the world feels smaller, and our experiences become more collective and universal. These days one can easily video chat in real time with friends on different continents, and bestselling books are routinely translated into thirty or more languages so they can be read across the globe.
This widespread multiculturalism is seen not only online, but also in the real world, where international travel and relocation, for both business and pleasure, has become an increasingly common part of modern life. In major cities everywhere there are likely to be an enormous variety of different languages spoken between visitors and residents alike.
As we grow increasingly accustomed to obtaining our information from a variety of international sources, both at home and abroad, the content we create becomes more relevant and important to readers who might not speak the same language and share the same cultural background. However, despite the steps we have taken to gradually eliminate the boundaries restricting nearly universal access to online information, language is one barrier which remains difficult to overcome, even with the technology that is currently available. And although some phenomena manage to have an international appeal without the need for translation — everyone pretty much has a handle on Gangnam Style — many other cultural topics and trends do require translation to be understood and appreciated by a wider audience.
The use of online translation tools such as Google Translate offers one solution for casual readers who are looking for a very basic translation of a word or a phrase from another language. However, since these translations are computer-based, they can only really take users so far — and in many cases, they then leave them stranded and confused. With more complicated subject matter, there is always the risk that a computer-generated translation will distort the meaning and intent of the original information, or simply render it useless.
Right now, users simply cannot rely on a computer to translate written or spoken content in a meaningful or useful way. We're sure that the tools will get better over the next five years, but we have significant doubts that they'll be as clever, accurate, and insightful as human translators.
Fortunately, as the need for translation continues to increase, human-based translation services offer user-friendly solutions for a wide variety of content types. Verbal Ink’s translation services in particular do not use machines or algorithms of any kind — all of the translating is done by individuals who are well-versed in both the source and target languages.
There are several things to consider when it comes to deciding whether or not to offer translations of your content, including the anticipated demographic and location of your intended audience, and whether the type of content you are offering is likely to be shared online among a wider audience, or distributed more locally. Content that you anticipate appealing to a multicultural audience, which can include news stories, web sites and landing pages, reviews, speeches, lyrics, and informational and instructional materials for travelers or tourists, is generally an excellent candidate for translation services.
Offering alternative-language translations of spoken or written content also enables an author or business to:
Control the Message – Rather than relying on automated translation tools, offering translations of your material that have been created by human beings will help ensure that your original message is not garbled or lost.
Stay on the Cutting Edge of Communication – Offering translations of your content shows your understanding and appreciation of your potential audience’s diversity.
Reach a Wider Audience – The more languages your content is available in, the more people will have access to it—and the greater your reach will be.
We expect that more and more people will expect to find multi-language versions of content available both online and offline. Over the next five years, it will be increasingly worthwhile for businesses to provide their content in multiple languages. We also do not foresee the limitations and potential hazards of computer-based translations disappearing anytime soon. As such, forward-thinking business owners should keep in mind that human translation will continue to bring an invaluable awareness of context, understanding, and nuance to the end result that a machine cannot match.