One thing I came to realize, being a translator and being an interpreter are not exactly the same. You can be bilingual and able to translate from one language to another, but it doesn’t mean you can be effective as an interpreter. The two roles are quite distinct, and it is difficult to find someone who can equally perform both occupations .
A translator is a person who works with the written language (e.g. documents, websites, articles, and so on). He or She needs to know the source language well, and have a good understanding of the field covered by the source text.
You goal is to produce a text that reads as if it was written originally in the target language. To achieve this, you have access to different resources such as dictionaries, related topics in the target language, etc. You also have a longer period of time to come up with the proper document translated into the target language.
However, an interpreter is someone who works with a spoken language. You, not only need to know the source language well, but also the target language.
On the other hand, you don’t have access to the same resources a translator has, nor the same amount of time to come up with the right translation. In fact, you may only have 5 to 10 seconds to translate after the speaker has finished. You must listen and speak–at the same time.
But, what does this have to do with targeting the Spanish Market?
A few weeks ago, as I was translating after the speaker, he said this, “What I’m about show you is going to blow mind.”
Now, you may know what that expression, “blowing your mind,” means. In English, to astound or to amaze—but in Spanish, it has a different meaning; it literally means to blow up your head with some kind of device.
Five to ten seconds…!
They weren’t enough for me to come up with the right interpretation. I said something that in English would mean, to smash your head.
An automatic Translator or Interpreter?
So, let’s say you have this headline: “7 Reasons Why This Product Will Blow Your Mind.”
You decide you want to reach the Hispanic population, then you install Google in-Site machine translation.
A Spanish person comes, and reads your headline: “7 Razones Por las Que Este Producto les Volará la Cabeza.”
What you’ll be actually saying in English, “7 Reasons Why This Product Will Burst Your Heads Wide Open.”
Does it sound right?
Not for your reader, nor your business. Now your visitors are confused—and the credibility of your business is hurt.
Simply put, an automatic machine will produce a quick translation (10 seconds, or less) of your document, yet a content full of errors and grammatical mistakes.
What to do?
When translating your sales letters, website or landing page, make sure you translate figure of speech, or idiomatic expressions (if you really need to use them) according to the meaning in the source language—something a machine translation doesn’t achieve.
Or hire a Bilingual Copywriter, and a professional translator.