Man and machine: how to ensure your content performs in every language

New AI systems can check for the sentiment of content host sites – but when it comes to translating your content, it’s always worth consulting a native speaker

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New AI systems can check for the sentiment of content host sites – but when it comes to translating your content, it’s always worth consulting a native speaker

Bad translations all over the world have caused confusion and hilarity in equal measure, from the government’s botched translation of a Brexit whitepaper to the recent mangled ‘interview’ with Drew Barrymore in EgyptAir’s inflight magazine.

In case you missed that one, on her parenting methods, Barrymore is ‘quoted’ as saying: “I focus on nurturing their minds as well as their small bodies” among other bizarre things.

Most bad translations are entertaining – such as Google Translate briefly, and unwittingly, automatically turning searches for ‘Russian Federation’ into ‘Mordor”’ – but they undeniably lower the credibility of the content at hand.

But when more than just nuances of language are lost in translation, consumers have to wade through content that is at best surreal, or at worst offensive.

And as soon as content starts to seem incongruous or incorrect, it loses credibility.

Tone and targeting

Technology can both aid and hinder.

The Drum, together with GumGum, has released a new report on the rise in advanced contextual targeting. It’s insightful, not least because it shows just how easily a brand’s identity can become associated with low-quality work, whether it is the copy itself that is flawed, or the platform it appears on.

As The Drum points out, new AI tech can identify the sentiment and tone of a publisher’s hosting site so you no longer have to rely on single keywords to tack content into relevant spaces. Rather than run the risk of a badly placed content gaffe, new contextual targeting technology enhances consumers’ perception of a quality brand ID.

The same goes for translating content into languages that you’re unfamiliar with. Technology can be incredibly efficient and pretty accurate, but there is more to the content that you’ve spent hours crafting than just the bare bones of grammar and your hyperlinks.

You need to make sure the sentiment and the tone come across just as effectively in Arabic, French or any other language.

The human touch

The ideal solution is to have a native speaker, or someone familiar with the language and cultural implications, to thoroughly check your content before you go to publish. It may be time consuming, but it’s undeniably worth it.

Bearing in mind that companies who blog receive 97% more links to their website, it’s clear that appealing and quality content can drive consumers forward.

So why take a shortcut when it comes to ensuring your content actually means what you intend it to mean? Invest the extra time in checking that the language you’ve translated into comes across exactly how you’d like, just as you’d double check the way that your content appears on its host platform.

Everyone makes mistakes: Clairol’s curling iron, ‘Mist Stick’, was launched in Germany without a second thought – but their German marketing efforts were a little hindered when someone pointed out that ‘mist’ is the German word for manure.

Not something you want in your hair, and not a mistake you want in your content. Doing the leg work will reap the rewards.

Frances Ball