We can all agree that Google Translate and GPT are powerful tools. But are they good enough to manage your whole localization strategy from A to Z? In other words, can they replace a team of translators and local experts? We think not.

They are tools, not the finished product. Unless you want to end up with egg on your face, read on to find out why automated tools can't handle all your localization needs.

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😵‍💫 Reason #1: Lack of "understanding" 🔗

Google Translate and GPT are powerful tools for direct translation. They do it quickly and efficiently. And, to be fair, they give you a pretty decent rough draft of a translation. 📝 But is a rough draft good enough for your product?

Localization is more than just word-for-word translation. You need to adapt your content so that it lands perfectly with your users. Everything needs to make sense culturally. All the humor, idioms, context, and grammar need to line up perfectly. If they don't – you'll lose people's trust (and possibly their loyalty).

Take this example of translating a common English phrase into Vietnamese – "the gift that keeps on giving." If you rely on Google Translate, it literally translates it to "Những món quà không ngừng đưa ra," which means "the gifts continuously offered," which doesn't really communicate the context.

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As you can see, ChatGPT gets the translation wrong on the first attempt, too:

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Here's another one… 🥚

In the introduction to this article, we used the phrase "egg on your face," a typical English expression that means looking foolish due to something you've done. If you use Google Translate or ChatGPT, you'll get quite a literal translation.

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These examples take just a couple of simple phrases. If you multiply this across thousands of words of content put through automated tools, you'll probably find dozens of similar mistakes.

Some of these mistakes can be highly embarrassing, such as this Spanish leaf vegetable festival that was wrongly advertised as a "clitoris festival" due to automated translation! 😅

You have to realize that no translation tool is perfect. Of course, its accuracy might improve over time, but it's unlikely that it will reach 100% accuracy across all languages anytime soon. For now, you still need humans in the loop to ensure accuracy.

And why is accuracy so important? That brings us to our next point…

🔍 Reason #2: Lack of QA 🔗

When you're trying to enter new markets and locales, neglecting quality assurance can backfire big time. Your message can get lost in translation—quite literally.

As shown in the previous section, poor translations lead to misunderstanding at best and offense at worst. And the golden rule of any business is not to alienate the people you're trying to connect with. That's why you need to pay attention to localization QA. Take the time to ensure every aspect of your product resonates with the local audience, including everything from your marketing messages to user interface text.

To do this effectively, you need support from local experts who add cultural nuance to your translations and phrasing. Then, you should test the product with a small group of local users and get feedback to ensure it's appropriate and engaging before rolling it out to a broader audience.

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Localization still isn't over, even when you've launched. 👀 It's best practice to get user feedback and iteratively improve your product based on their comments. If several people pick up on a poorly translated text section, you need to fix it soon.

Without robust QA, you risk offering a product that seems insensitive or out of touch with local norms and values. This can seriously damage your brand reputation and hit sales.

📚 Recommended: Why and how to provide local expertise to foreign clients?

💻 Reason #3: Lack of design optimization 🔗

Design is just as important as text when it comes to localization. Getting it wrong impacts how people feel about your product.

For example, colors evoke different emotional responses in different cultures. Red is seen as lucky in China but associated with danger, excitement, or love in Western countries, and purity in India, where brides wear red wedding dresses.

Also, the layout must be changed for RTL languages such as Arabic or Hebrew. This affects the content as well as UI navigational elements, such as placing buttons to the left of the text instead of the right.

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😓 Reason #4: Lack of resources 🔗

When you use a tool like Google Translate or ChatGPT, you get a plain text response. And that's it. When you localize, you might need to introduce new features to cater to local users' preferences or to comply with local laws. For instance, you might need to change payment processors in some locations, such as China, where Alipay or WeChat Pay are more popular than PayPal or credit cards.

Developers might need to make content more dynamic so it displays correctly across devices and platforms in regions with different standards. All these changes can overwhelm them, especially if they're expected to implement them without enough support or necessary tools.

Without proper resources, things get inefficient pretty quickly. You need to enable access to local testing environments and experienced local developers, or you could end up with delays, higher costs, and a final product that doesn't meet market needs.

When you use a tool like Google Translate or ChatGPT, you get a plain text response. That's it. They don't handle any of the other elements of the localization process, like dynamic features, testing, or personalization features, which can lead to frustration for your developers

🔮 Reason #5: Lack of vision 🔗

Without a robust framework like those provided by a Translation Management System (TMS) or a dedicated localization service, scaling up is a headache.

You need to keep in mind that, during that process, you'll need to:

1. Manage complexity 🔗

As you expand, you could be dealing with dozens of languages, each with its own nuances and requirements. A good TMS helps manage this complexity by centralizing translation memories, glossaries, and workflows. It becomes a command center, helping you oversee multiple processes and coordinate larger teams efficiently. 🧑‍💻

At the same time, using a flexible system that easily integrates with dozens of frameworks, programming languages, and tools can also make the process much smoother and give your developing team a much-needed respite.

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2. Ensure consistency 🔗

It is challenging to maintain consistency across different languages and markets. A TMS ensures that all your content is consistent regarding brand voice and style.

3. Streamline communication 🔗

Many stakeholders might be involved in your projects, including translators, marketers, product managers, and local compliance experts. A TMS takes care of all communication, helping make sure everyone's on the same page. It also allows you to fine-tune permissions for team members and collaborators, so the localization work is always in motion.

4. Handle feedback and iterations 🔗

Feedback from users reveals unexpected issues—anything from a minor translation inaccuracy to a bigger cultural faux pas. 💭 A growing number of user complaints gets overwhelming, especially if there's no straightforward way to address them. A good TMS manages these issues and streamlines content improvement based on user feedback.

5. Future-proofing your efforts 🔗

As new markets emerge and technology evolves, your localization efforts should adapt. A scalable TMS allows you to quickly integrate new tech and processes, making you more proactive and resilient.

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⚡️ Don't settle for subpar localization 🔗

To summarize, if you're using Google Translate and GPT, you're not doing A-grade localization. You're just doing translation, which is B or C-grade at best.

At the end of the day, you still need to ensure cultural relevance and manage the delivery process, team permissions, integrations, quality assurance, and iterative improvements based on feedback.

TLDR: it's challenging to grow and expand into new markets if you treat localization as an afterthought. It's better to see it as a holistic process with lots of moving parts, as it's more than simply translating text. Put simply – if you only use automated tools, you won't get the best results for you or your customers.

🍬 We're committed to helping you find the sweet spot between automation and human touch. Our 14-day trial allows you to see how far you can scale your localization effortlessly—register today and try it for free!