Amazon’s launch in Sweden spoiled by inappropriate machine translation

With many companies expanding their services internationally, last week retail giant Amazon launched its e-commerce website in Sweden in a bid to enable their Swedish customers to shop over 150 million products across more than 30 categories in their native language.

Unfortunately, Amazon’s machine translation software incorrectly translated multiple product descriptions, resulting in some offensive and even vulgar Swedish terms and causing a wave of criticism across social media.

Claire Mullins, LanguageLoop’s National Translations Manager, says errors in machine translation are quite common and relying on machine translation alone can make or break the launch of a product in a new market.

“Many businesses that want to expand into new markets often make the mistake of using machine translation without adequate checks and balances in place, and this can lead to embarrassment at best or a backlash from new customers at worst,” Ms Mullins said.

“One of the issues with machine translation is that single words can be translated out of context, and you need to train your engine with the input of professional translators to help improve output over time. This is why it’s crucial to have a professional Language Service Provider that can offer this service and advice before a new product or website launch.”

LanguageLoop, Australia’s leading language service provider, has an expert team of professional translators and Project Managers to ensure any translated content conveys the right message in a culturally appropriate way.

Ms Mullins also advises that translation is only once piece of the puzzle when it comes to localising a website for a new market. On Amazon’s new Sweden website, customers saw the Argentine flag where the Swedish flag should have appeared.

“Breaking into a new market is not just about translating words,” she says. “You also have to think about details like graphics and design elements as well as adapting currencies and numbers to local formats. This is a foolproof way of gaining the trust of your new customers.”

With LanguageLoop’s latest Language Matters research identifying how language services can impact the loyalty and buying behaviour of multilingual customers, it’s crucial that businesses choose a reputable Language Service Provider with the expertise to guide them through a successful localisation project.

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