Does Auto-Translation Spell Trouble for Email Marketing?

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GRAPHICMAIL – At the beginning of May, Google launched an automatic message translation (AMT) feature for Gmail. AMT works by providing you with an automatically prompted translate button for any message that Google thinks isn’t your default language.

Gmail can translate on a per-email basis, or remember to automatically translate all other languages into your own language by conveniently enabling “always translate.”

In theory, sounds like it could be a good thing for everyone… right?

Well, there are a few drawbacks: Having AMT around means that you don’t have to deal with the humdrum of copying and pasting content directly into Google Translate. But chances are you’re still going to see more than just a few of its usual failures to keep the same context and meaning while going between language A and B.

Anyone who has ever used machine translation programs will know they are never as sharp as a fluent human translator. So while many people should find this service to be useful for day-in/day-out emails, AMT isn’t such a great thing for business or bulk email marketing communications.

What can you do to prevent mistranslation?

There are some simple practices you could follow to help keep your message intact, even when your copy gets a bit smudged.

1. Lead with Design: By tweaking images and layout, you can optimize an email so that people easily get the big idea about what you want them to do, at a glance, without relying on reading lots of text.

2. Speak with Images: Since there’s no way to mistranslate a graphic, make sure the text for your chief call-outs are placed onto some of these, preferably a banner.

3. Cut Down on Copy: More words mean more opportunity for mistranslation. So it’s always a good idea to keep text as short and concise as possible. Be brief, say exactly what you mean and use plain language.

4. Link to the Web: It’s also a good idea to provide a link to a web-based alternative to the email, at or close to the top of the HTML newsletter. This will give each reader the option to view the original email in his or her browser.

Will you get more spam thanks to AMT?

There’s a good chance that you might. I mean, to begin with — if you’re getting email newsletters in a language you don’t understand, the odds are that you probably didn’t personally opt in for it (unless you somehow did by mistake).

Since everything can automatically be translated into your default language, there is a risk that you could mistake spam for legitimate messages. So be on the lookout for malware, attempts at phishing and other forms of email fraud.

4 COMMENTS

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