Lost In Translation: Exploring Where Machine Translation Tools Can Falter

Machines are replacing humans in day-to-day tasks. From kitchen utensils to industrial operations, machines are taking charge of all the difficult and tiring operations. Whether it is your business activities or everyday life, things have now become automated and less complicated. The same thing goes for translation operations. With the arrival of advanced AI machine translation engines, language translations have become agile and simple.

Machine tools in your have made translation less time-consuming, but they also come with a few drawbacks that you need to look into. Machine tools are also prone to errors and mistakes, especially when you are using them to translate complex, technical, and highly nuanced content.

You have to carefully watch your machine translation process and back it up with proper post-editing to avoid any quality or accuracy issues.

Common Mistakes in Machine Translation Systems

Inconsistent Tones 

When you’re working on a translation project for your brand, you’ve to keep the content sounding like your brand voice. It has to be consistent, no matter how many translators are working on it. If you’re using a machine translation tool, it uses translation memory and other AI algorithms to generate translations that are highly likely to be inconsistent. Even if you are using paid tools, you can give them detailed instructions about the tone and style you are expecting your translations to have. In case you are working on a similar project and using your own translation memory, the MT tools in your enterprise translation management system will automatically learn your unique tone and start translating in a more consistent style.

Gender Bias 

Different languages follow different grammar rules. Some languages, like English and Urdu, have masculine and feminine nouns. In one language, a noun can be masculine, but in another language, it could be feminine. So, your machine tools translate the content with the correct gender attached to it. Translations produced by some machine translation tools may show a deliberate gender basis, where the system has just assumed the gender of the noun as male. Such assumptions made by the algorithm of your localization platform may lead to serious linguistic errors. It can be seen as offensive to the reader when the feminine gender is totally overlooked.

Not so Funny Humor 

It is great to put some humor in your content, but it is not a translation-friendly approach, especially if you are using a machine tool. Machines may leave the humor in your content undetected and provide literal translations for it. It may make your content look stupid and irrelevant to the overall context. If you use a machine translation post-editing approach, the mistake may get detected by the translators, and now you have put them in trouble by expecting them to write an alternate joke in the target language with a similar context. However, it is recommended to avoid too much humor in the first place.

Mistranslate Idioms 

Idioms in your content can make the phrase sound more eloquent, and it is a good linguistic practice to use idioms in your sentences. But what about translations? It is a major drawback of machine translation tools that they can’t really pick up the context behind such phrases. Your machine tools can treat such phrases like regular sentences and provide literal translations. You must not translate Idioms literally because they contain metaphors, which may totally mess up your brand messaging. It not only makes the translation seem less eloquent but also seems to have major issues with clarity.

Ignore Cultural Nuances

How much cultural understanding your machine tool has totally depends on the data you feed it. If you have provided the algorithms with enough cultural data, they might be able to recognize different patterns and figure out how things work linguistically in different cultures. However, in most cases, machine translation tools are unable to provide culturally appropriate translations. Every culture has its own sensitivities and cultural biases that must be taken care of while doing translations. So, you can’t expect MT tools to provide you with a complete human touch. Get your machine translations proofread by native translators who’ll correct the cultural mistranslations and help you generate more resonating content. If your content is culturally sensitive, you need a professional translation solution for enterprises from a reliable language service provider.


Machine tools are undoubtedly a boon for global companies that have to translate large volumes of content regularly. However, you must be aware of the pros and cons of such tools and the right way to use them. To maintain your translation quality, accuracy, quality, and cultural resonance, you never leave your translations up to the MT tools. The automated translation must be proofread and edited by professional translators to give it a human touch and eliminate contextual and logical inaccuracies.