Does a website translation have to be of high quality?

Does an average online user even notice if the website copy is not a masterpiece of style? As long as it is good enough, it'll fulfill its purpose… Or not?

While there is an argument to be made for "good enough" translation quality in some cases, I think that especially for monolingual English-speaking clients it is hard to define "good enough" is, as they do not encounter many online translated texts in their daily lives.

Online users notice mistakes in translated website copy. Some might even feel frustrated about them (and leave the page)

Online users notice mistakes in translated website copy. Some might even feel frustrated about them (and leave the page)

Websites of several foreign high-profile events, however, provide an excellent opportunity to "test-drive" translations into English that leave much to be desired. One of them is a website with information related to Expo 2015 in Milan. According to the article in The Independent, many of the translations on the website were word-for-word copies of Google Translate results. Not surprisingly, the texts have lead to a considerable frustration among some of the English-speaking readers.

A more recent example is the English text on the Cannes Festival website, as mentioned in this tweet by Emma Paulay (@EmmaPaulay):

Even if you do not work with words for a living, you will probably notice that copy on these websites is not easy to read and can be quite confusing.

While it is quite likely that the Cannes Festival visitors will keep reading to get to the information on the festival program, and the Expo 2015 visitors would still appreciate information on where to find a great burger, would potential clients be happy to struggle through similarly obscure texts in their native languages?

As Alex Roe claims in his article, low-quality English websites cost businesses in Italy "billions in sales". Although no data is backing up this claim, the article has links to several more website with translated copy, as well as some advice for companies that want to make sure their copy continues to sell in translation.

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Ekaterina Howard, English into Russian and German into Russian business, marketing, and real estate translations

Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations

English to Russian and German to Russian translator working with business, marketing and real estate materials. ATA and CATI member.