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Human vs Google Translation

A word of caution against Google Translate!

Technology is a beautiful thing and in business it has become a game-changer: countless apps, widgets, programs and systems are now available to business people to make their work easier and more efficient.

Non-translators tend to spontaneously think of Google Translate when relating technology to translation.

Google Translate’s automatic translations may seem useful because they give internet users a general understanding of something written in a foreign language (e.g. when casually scanning the internet for information).

However, Google Translate should never be relied upon to generate meaningful and printable content.  Not even to make what seems like minor changes to a previously translated text.

To illustrate just how badly it can fail us, we’ve used an example of a text readily available from the French language website of the fashion and cosmetics powerhouse Chanel:

french-language-clippingand its English language version translated by a human:


We submitted the original French copy of this text to Google Translate and compared the results to the human translation.


It is quite noteworthy to point out that although the text was very short (50 to 75 words), Google Translate produced three completely nonsensical sentences:

  •  “His escalation of tensions” instead of “Facial tension slips away”;
  •  “Her muslin cotton soaked in warm water gently exfoliates and perfect cleaning” for what should have said “Moistened with warm water, its cotton cloth gently exfoliates and removes all traces of makeup”;
  •  The header “Benefits” was translated by “Earnings”.

Of course, the problems do not end there.  We also have:

  •  a sentence missing a verb,
  •  a whole slew of rather awkwardly strung words,
  •  not to mention the fact that the product name (“Essential Comfort Cleanser”) was translated in two different ways (“Supreme Comfort Cleansing” and “Supreme Cleansing Comfort”).

So please, heed our warning: avoid the temptation of turning to Google Translate for any type of translation, no matter how insignificant. If changes are made to a document we have previously translated, we will be happy to go over them and make the necessary adjustments.

Beautyterm Interview by PRIMERTBR

Do you want to know more about Beautyterm?  Why and how the company came into existence?  Why is translation and localization important to building brand awareness? How does globalization, research and development, and advertising impact the role of the translator?

Click on this link and read the PRIMERTBR interview with Beautyterm founder Agnes Meilhac to get your answers!

Primer is an industry publication addressing and analyzing public policy and business topics defining the future of the beauty industry.


PRIMERTBR Interview with Beautyterm April 2015


The Qualities that Make a Good Beauty Translator

number 1Every professional translator is required to demonstrate perfect language proficiency and good knowledge of subject matter.  That’s a given.  However, there are other qualities that translators need to have in order to be good at what they do.

What exactly are those qualities?  How can translation service buyers know they are working with a talented and skillful beauty translator?

Translators can also be expected to have the following qualities, irrespective of their field of specialty: experience, professional attitude, good research skills, discipline and attention to detail (but not at the expense of losing sight of the forest for the trees! After all linguistic dexterity comes from a flexible mind, from the ability to see the “big picture”).

But a good beauty translator’s personal qualities will often make the difference and here is why:

  • Awareness of the Market – It often comes down to personal curiosity. Beauty translators must be knowledgeable about the market in which they translate in order to understand their target audience and produce high-quality translations that hold the consumer’s attention
  • Passion for writing and love of words – Someone you hire for translating cosmetic copy must not only love beauty products but also love writing about them and feel passionate about language in general.
  • Vivid Imagination – Communication professionals who truly love language usually understand that they are not dealing with a static immovable force but rather with a living, breathing and constantly changing entity.  They are not afraid to show off their own originality, imagination and creative flair.
  • Humility and open-mindedness – Do not trust translators who say they can deliver a “perfect” translation.  Just like in writing, there is always room for improvement.  Openness to feedback and criticism from others is a must.  Translating is not only about “getting it right”; it is also about having the right attitude.
  • Self-confidence – At the same time, translators must know when to take a stand.  Holding one’s own voice against others is a necessary part of consulting with clients, especially when helping them avert a costly or embarrassing mistake.  Finding that right balance between humility and self-confidence is key.

Marketing, storytelling and translation memories

Marketing cosmetic products has a lot to do with successful storytelling, which means that translation in this field requires equal measures of creativity and imagination.

I was once asked at a dinner party why I insist on “working from scratch,” foregoing the use of translation memory software and other technologies in my work as expert translator for the beauty industry.

Translation memories are hugely popular with run-of-the-mill translation agencies because they make the translation process so cost-effective. They can be easily used for legal agreements, user manuals and highly repetitive documents of technical nature, but have a limited application in cosmetic translation.  Why?

Good marketing is all about telling a compelling story that captures our imagination and holds our attention. Instead of trying to sell a product for its features or benefits, successful marketers have the ability to captivate their consumers by simply crafting a great story.

Cosmetics companies are exceptionally skillful at using storytelling for this purpose.  The most prevalent type of storytelling in the beauty and fragrance industry is the “product creation” storyline.  These stories are often told to answer the question “why buy this product from us?” They work well because they showcase the company’s values, knowledge of the market and how it identified an unmet customer need.

Sharing with customers a product’s story is one of the best ways to win them over.  Helena Rubinstein, a brilliant innovator and doyenne of cosmetics, learned this lesson early in her career.  After starting her business in Australia, the recently arrived Polish émigré named her very first product “Crème Valaze” in order to evoke the sophistication and luxury of Paris. At the same time, she advertised the formula as an invention of a certain Doctor Lykusky from Krakow, made with “rare herbs from the Carpathian Mountains”, deftly weaving her Central European origins into the tale.(*)

The importance of storytelling has become even more vital since the explosion of social media shifted focus to content marketing.  The goal is to retain reader attention by creating engaging, meaningful content, while at the same time building brand loyalty.

Translation memories are not well suited for use in translating marketing material that aims at telling a story.  Designed not to “replace” a translator by churning out translations out of a vacuum, but rather to capture repeated content for the translator’s future reuse, TM software is in fact of very little help when it comes to more creative, expressive writing.  Reusing past content is only relevant when specific requirements of consistency have to be met.

As for the actual retelling of a story in a different tongue, nothing can beat human command of language, its rhythm, structure and nuance, which affect style as well as substance.  Translating cosmetic copy is not possible without downright creative input, involving a comparable amount of time and effort to that spent on writing the original.

You can take a great marketing campaign and end up with a pale copy full of passive, tedious translation choices or you can get something equally inspiring and uplifting.  The difference lies in how much effort was put into “doing it from scratch”.


(*)Branded Beauty: How Marketing Changed The Way We Look by Mark Tungate

The advantages of hiring a small translation consulting firm vs. a large agency

Specialization, human touch and top-notch collaborators

Shopping around for the right translation service provider is not easy.  There is an abundance of translation agencies to choose from, all vying for potential clients’ attention with the same assurances of high quality, native language translators and project management skills.

Most agencies choose not to specialize too narrowly in one specific field.  They tend to serve a wide range of industries, from the airlines, IT sector, food and agriculture to hotels.  And most also have a financial and legal department as those areas are typically highly profitable.

All reputable establishments that follow a strict protocol farm out the translation work they accept from clients to adequately trained translators.  So a legal document will be given to a legal translator and a pharmaceutical translation will go to a translator with the required expertise in that field.

However, smaller companies that do make the conscious decision to work within the scope of only one industry can offer many benefits:

-> Specialization creates high quality

  • Focus: Adopting a focus in a given niche means that your translation will not be relegated, last-minute, to just any translator at the end of the phone line with time to spare, if the regular specialized translator is on vacation or sick leave.
  • Educate: Rushed, halfway solutions become unnecessary because small translation boutiques are willing to invest time in educating their prospects before they start selling their services.  For example, they take the time to explain how important it is to factor in enough time for the process of properly translating a document.

-> Close relationships and solutions tailored to your needs

  • Nurture: Smaller companies pamper their clients and employees/partners alike.  They may be able to address highly personalized client requests at a moment’s notice but they also have very tight-knit relationships with their translators and work hard at keeping both happy.
  • Reach: They are so close to their clients that they can deliver CEO-level experience to everyone they work with.  It’s all about involvement and hands-on management.  Translators who ask questions are good news.
  • Surprise: Truly valuable translation service providers understand and are able to demonstrate to their clients that translation is an art.  They know the value of surprising their clients with initiative, innovation and sometimes even risk taking.   Did you think translation was for drones?  Think again!
  • Meaning: A small translation outfit will work to build a meaningful relationship.  Instead of placing focus on selling (churning out volume-driven revenue), the resulting partnership will be about connecting and understanding.

-> We bring you the best of the translation world

  • Partner: Because small translation businesses are highly specialized and operate via networks of partners in order to be able to address their clients’ specific needs, they must ensure that their pool of partners represents the best and the brightest in the field.
  • Automate: With smart use of technology, small service providers are able to ensure the same level of follow-up and service without the overhead cost of their big agency competitors.


[Be warned: some may still be more expensive, even without comparable overhead, given the higher level of expertise and higher overall attention to their clients.  However, this usually means that translators are also much better paid and therefore much happier with what they do, in addition to being on the whole more satisfied with their working relationships and working conditions.  Invariably, such differences will translate into a big difference in the quality of the final product that the paying end customer will see upon delivery.]


SOURCE: John Jantsch, Duct Tape Marketing


The Importance of Native Speaking Translators

Why is it so important to hire native speakers as translators?  And why is it almost a twofold obligation when translating beauty care and cosmetic copy?

New translation buyers may not be aware of this, but professional translators work into their native language only.  According to the American Translators Association a “translator who flouts this basic rule is likely to be ignorant of other important quality issues as well”.

If a document needs to be translated into English, it has to be given to native English speakers, and not a French, Spanish or German translator, however skilled a professional he or she may be.  Granted, English has become a global lingua franca or a universal language, but that does not mean that non native speakers, even those who have mastered it orally, will be able to write flawless, print-ready copy.


Eventually their language-specific reflexes will gain the upper hand and the produced English translation will irrefutably end up peppered with pesky little inconsistencies and erratic expressions.  The end result will be no less than annoying to the intended reader and also potential customer.

A good example from French to English translations involves the very basic word “skin”.  In French, it is frequently used in its plural form to point to many different types of skin.  So the French refer quite naturally to “les peaux matures” et “les peaux sèches et normales”, while in English “skin” must at all times remain in singular.

A non native translator working into English may, however, get carried away and say “With its unique composition, this spring water is capable of soothing even the most irritated skins” or “sensitive skins often age at a faster rate than other skins”, which, to put it mildly, has a skin-crawling (pardon the pun) effect from all points of view.  This is exactly the type of translation faux pas – be it in a website, brochure, product description, press release or other – that raises red flags, tipping your readers off that there just may be something amiss with the broader picture.

Let’s look at the wider ramifications. Cosmetics and beauty care products are designed to bring glamour and luxury to everyday life.  As L’Oréal puts it, they “pamper the soul”, influencing the relationship we have with ourselves, improving our self-acceptance and self-image, and not just the way others perceive us.  Because of the importance of physical appearance in our developed societies, cosmetics enjoy an increasingly higher status.  They represent our striving for excellence, perfection and beauty.  It is therefore essential that they reflect equally high standards of quality.  And hence we see the enormous strategic implications of product branding, image and positioning.

frenchman-200x300As an extension of advertising and marketing communication strategy, translation of cosmetic copy cannot afford to be shabby or substandard.  Even smaller companies just barely on the verge of breaking into international markets should think carefully about spending a little extra on professional translation services, especially for documents used for publication and likely to reach a greater public.

That money will be well spent; it will prove that they care about their products and their customers.  It makes perfect sense.  Why should a customer trust a company that claims to have in-depth scientific expertise but is not able or not willing to advertise it in a way that is on a par with its capabilities?  First impressions are lasting impressions and people make snap judgments on small details.

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