The latest Google real time auto-translation app update has promised to recognise a spoken language and make a real-time transcript of the words, as well as translate signs and written information via camera scanning. In short, a tool that will take us closer to a universal translator device seen only in science fiction stories.

Translation, character and voice recognition technologies have been a positive addition to social communications like Skype, traveling and even international business video conferences. The Google Translate tool was already remarkable; it supported over 90 languages and recognised some spoken languages too. But the latest Translate app update announcement has been all over the media recently and got us all excited about finally having a tool that could knock down all language barriers.


What does this mean to affiliates and merchants?

If this technology could be successfully integrated to digital channels, marketers would have a whole new global market to target. We know that most big brands and companies are already global, but if it really is as good as advertised, this tool could open markets to smaller businesses that can’t afford translators or multi-lingual customer service staff.

If you’ve used the traditional Google translation page before, there’s a big chance you’ve also noticed some discrepancies on the translated results. You might have also used voice recognition technologies available in your smart phone, like Siri, and probably experienced trouble making yourself understood or getting the right answer. So having a seamless and accurate translator tool at your disposal would open up a whole world of possibilities.


A revolutionary jump or just a step closer? The Twist team tests.

Having several bilingual employees here at Twist, we knew we had to try the new Google Translate app for ourselves! Using both simple and long phrases, we tested how the app faired at both Spanish and German translations.


Rachel said in English: “Complement your beauty regime with our quality selection of skincare”

App transcript: “Compliment your beauty ratio in with our quality selection of skin care”

Translated to Spanish as: “Congratulate your relationship with beauty in our quality selection for skin care”


Rachel said in English: “Premium beauty care to revitalise and refresh your look”

App transcript: “Premium due to catch revitalise and refresh your look”

Translated to Spanish as: “Extra charge for taking revitalise and refreshing your look”


Martyn said in English: “A great business website is one that serves as a valuable resource for its visitor”

Translated to German as: “A big company-website is one, that serves as a valuable resource for visitors”


Chelsea said in English: “Fat cat sat on the beach”

Translated to German as: “Fat cat on the beach to sit”


Josi said in German: “My mum is called Angela, my grandmother is called Christa”

Translated to Spanish as: “My mum called my grandmother Christa of Angela”


Karla said in Spanish: “I’m going to take my dog for a walk”

Translated to German as: “I’ll take a walk my dog”


Rui said in Portuguese: “Diets to lose 3 kilos in 5 days”

Translated to German as: “Nutrition to 3 kilograms em 5 dias lose”


As you can see, the outcome was rather disappointing, especially when using long sentences. Voice recognition didn’t work as well, and it translated different words that made the phrases inadequate or nonsense. And in some cases such as the last example, it didn’t even translate parts at all!


The ugly

There are already concerns about Google’s invasion of privacy and the sharing and selling of our information collected through our e-mails, social media, map routes, houses images from street views, online searches, and even glass eyewear. Real-time Translate app and translation technologies are designed to learn and improve, meaning our conversations will be stored, giving yet another reason for these concerns.


Too good to be true?

We can definitely thank Google for developing a better translation tool that we can use in real-time with our treasured mobile phones, and I would be very grateful having this app in an extreme cultural situation or during a holiday in an exotic country. But with the limitations of this technology we should be far from relying on it for more serious or formal purposes.

In our opinion, when compared to professional translators translation apps are just not there yet. This type of technology is not meant to replace a professional translator; it’s more meant to help speed up the translation process by automatically replacing common text parts. This saves time as the translator who uses these tools can then just edit the content, a human translator should always be responsible for the final product.

Professional translators take great pride to ensure that they get the correct message across to the native audience just as the original author intended it to be. Translation apps still lack the ability to do this as an automatic machine just doesn’t have this sense of humour nor the ability to pick the perfect wording for the target audience to really capture their enthusiasm. Therefore, we think the translation industry can definitely relax for a while.


Key message for affiliates and merchants

In summary, if merchants or affiliates are planning to tap into foreign markets and go global (a strategy we massively support) then it’s absolutely recommended to go for professional translators. If you want to build or push an authority site in a non-English market and use organic traffic for the long-term then this is the best way to go. Remember, no matter how much those translation apps develop and improve, no translations will ever be as good as a human translation.