Sunday, 1 October 2017

Cow Parsley or Hemlock?


Pic of flower that looks like Cow Parsley or is it?


Anthriscus sylvestris or Conium maculatum? 

It's in a foreign language. How can you tell? 

Ask a professional.

A recent newsletter in my inbox bore a flower picture. Cow Parsley or Hemlock? I immediately recognised that important identifying features were outside the crop marks. Important considerations can distinguish a professional’s vigilance and expertise in translation as in botany.

Clients are sometimes tempted to take short cuts with translation - either by using an amateur or by using unedited machine translation. When past translations are regurgitated without human intervention, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the reformed translation will be harmless. It may look like cow parsley, but poisonous hemlock may be lurking beneath the surface. Consult the history books about Seneca’s slow suicide.

The translation equivalent of hemlock could mean a slow brand death. Unedited machine translation on your website may be harming your brand imperceptibly. Cultural history and its implications are not always apparent to a non-native speaker’s eyes. Your potential client may take a dim view or even be offended. Clients don’t always tell you – they just go elsewhere.

There’s another nasty in the botany world: Giant Hogweed. It’s a non-native species with toxic sap. It causes nasty burns and scarring.


Your use of non-native speakers for translation may not kill your brand. It may just burn or scar it badly. Don’t risk it. 

Always use a professional translator. A native speaker with subject expertise is the best option for a healthy, enduring brand.


Karen Andrews is a French to English translator, transcreator, content writer and editor. She holds an MSc in Scientific, Technical and Medical Translation with Translation Technology. She is a Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, Society for Editors and Proofreaders, Society of Authors and the Institute of Scientific and Technical Communicators. She can also offer your brand the value of over 15 years' expertise and experience in global marketing






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