iamlost - 3:46 pm on Mar 24, 2011 (gmt 0)
Leosghost raises an extremely important, often missed point of translation:
And then there is the question of regional accents in writing and the changes that makes in the vocabulary you need to use ..and of course the subject matter ..can it be handled jokingly or is it serious sales or scientific ..
If one is looking to maximise visitor conversion (define as you will) then writing fluently in their own language is best.
Note: if you add podcasts or video the regional variations need to be carefully considered; many more differences in spoken than written language.
Being unilingual I have content translated by one person and the result translated back by another. Only partly because I'm paranoid... :) ...mostly because conversion optimisation can be language critical.
And, being in business, the reason I pay for translated content is NOT to be a nice guy but to make a profit. If I don't see the probability of a reasonable return within a reasonable time frame I leave the visitor to their own devices. I see machine translation as disrespectful to a visitor, not helpful.
IF Google actually follows through and removes multi-language machine translated sites that would be nice. However, I note that most such sites I see are sites with scraped content machine translated to some other single language so I don't see me putting down my DMCA sword anytime soon.
One point directly to the OP:
In my case the main content of the site is language agnostic (images), and its only the navigational elements and boilerplate that get machine translated.
In my experience the shorter the copy being translated, i.e. image captions, the greater the probability, through loss of surrounding context, to make a language faux pas. The number of words, phrases with some regional vulgarity or similar is truly astounding.
Given the minimal amount of copy to be translated you might find it economically viable to hire a local university student native in or majoring in the language in question.