Translating content today

Recently, I stumbled over a problem with modern online services that’s more and more common. While in the past, services focused on providing an English language service, today most of the services offer localised versions, too. However, there are only a few that provide solid translations and a real localised service, not only a GoogleTranslated one.

In October, I decided to translate my own website to German so local people can read and explore it in their native language. During the process, I realised regularly that a direct translation into another language doesn’t work well and that rephrasing it completely often is a better choice. Now the problem is, automated translators can’t do this well and even AI isn’t a big help here.

With German not even being a irrelevant language, I realise that even the big companies either use an automated translation service or have no dedicated people to translate but do it word for word in their content/design or dev teams.

The problem is, nearly every time I prefer to read the English version because the German one is hard to read and sounds dumb, not catchy. In the past, I read a lot of articles that suggest to provide multi-lang websites to increase the conversion. All these services suggest to use Google Translate or similar for the translations. But is it worth the effort to translate content when it’s not attractive to the local users? I think it’s worth, especially for bigger companies or those who rely on local users, to hire a professional translator with marketing skills.

Taking Stripe (and this isn’t blaming them, I love their products and design), they have translated their main product’s teaser the following:

A complete payments platform, engineered for growth. Accept payments and move money globally with Stripe’s powerful APIs and software solutions designed to help you capture more revenue.

Their German version is:

Die skalierbare Zahlungs­plattform mit Ihrem Wachstum im Blick. Mit unseren modularen Technologien und APIs akzeptieren und versenden Unternehmen jeder Größe Zahlungen auf globalem Parkett.

Which translates to this in English again:

The scalable payment platform with growth in mind. With our modular technologies and APIs companies of every size accept and send payments on a global parquet floor.

The issue is that in German even the main headline is hard to read because they use complex words and you wouldn’t phrase such a sentence in real life spoken language. I’m not sure what the reference to the global parquet floor means but I’m pretty sure it’s not intended but an AI translation issue. I wonder why a company of this size doesn’t care more about translating at least the catchy product teaser content more professionally. Weirdly, they also left out the company’s name only in German translation.

I personally think micro-typography, good translations and good content writing matters a lot to the success of a product.

If I have to choose a translation service, I prefer to use Deepl which also has a pro version that gives you control over the output of translations as well as an API. The services usually produces better results than all the free translation services out there, even the really big and most common ones and while not known, universities and other big companies rely on it since years already.

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