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Is automatic translation for law blogs useful?

October 8, 2007

Des Walsh, an Australian business coach and blogging evangelist, asks ‘Is automatic translation for business blogs useful?’ How about for law blogs?

Many lawyers are anxious to have their blogs translated into a second language, especially Spanish.

LexBlog has been open to doing a second language blog for clients, but the key is accuarate translation. Effective law blogs enhance a lawyer’s reputation as a reliable and trusted authority. A push of the button translation that’s not perfect (usually the case) does the opposite, it detracts from the lawyer’s reputation as a trusted authority.

The answer is to do a second blog with the same posts as your first blog in a second language. The posts from the first blog would be translated by a person in the office who’s bilingual. Extra work. Sure. But a niche blog focused on, perhaps the Hispanic community in your locale could be very effective.

Des does discuss possible blog software for automatic translation. However, he raises a number of problems, not the least of which is getting an accurate translation.

…[I]t is fanciful at best to expect a mechanical translator to convey the fullness of meaning (or even, perhaps, a high degree of accuracy) in translating such idiosyncratic linguistic expressions as blogs are – or can be – into multiple languages.

This practical impossibility of having high level quality assurance for these translations raises in turn the question of whether it is prudent or not to use one of these [blog software] plugins on a business blog.

It comes down to making a strategic judgement about whether the risk or even likelihood of being misunderstood, by virtue of an egregiously bad bit of translation by Google’s machine, is outweighed by the potential benefit of providing some level of access to people who would otherwise find what is on your blog quite impenetrable.

For lawyers, I don’t believe it’s a risk worth taking.

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