The feature

LinkedIn has recently launched its own translation feature that is built on Microsoft AI technologies. It has been implemented after it was the most requested feature that LinkedIn users wanted to see on the platform. This is most likely due to LinkedIn being a professional platform, meaning that businesses from all over the world want to communicate with each other. Engineer, Angelika Clayton, claims “The need for economic opportunity is global, and that is represented by the fact that more than half of LinkedIn’s active members live outside of the U.S.” The feature hopes to make it easier for non-English language users to connect and share seamlessly on the site, and will also put it in line with the likes of Twitter and Facebook, which have had translation options for years.

Microsoft bought LinkedIn in 2016 and have delivered some integrations between their various products and services. The LinkedIn translation feature, known as ‘see translation’, uses the Microsoft Azure Text Analytics programming interface which can detect around 60 languages, as well as another one of Microsoft’s Cognitive Services – the Microsoft Translator Text programming interface.

Although the feature can automatically translate updates from non-English users, it cannot translate comments that non-English speakers put on other people’s updates. This, therefore, limits the communication between English and non-English users as they cannot use the feature to see what each other has said if one of them comments on the other’s post.

The feature also struggles to translate the informalities in languages – as machine translation overall still tends to do. The words themselves seem to get translated most of the time to a satisfactory level, but the meaning, intention and nuances are often lost in the translation.

What do users think?

One LinkedIn user wrote a post asking other users for their opinions on the feature. One user wrote, “In general, I don’t think automated translation can ever get the nuance that a human can.” It seems that the feature translates the words in the text to a satisfactory level, but the meaning, intention and nuances are often lost in the translation. Another user stated “I did see a LinkedIn translation, but it was dreadful! It had nothing to do with what the person was talking about!” The majority of LinkedIn users seem to share the same opinions on the new feature. Whilst it provides quick, literal translations of user’s posts, the feature can sometimes make errors and therefore fuel misunderstanding between users. This could have further consequences for user’s who are trying to promote their brand to potential foreign clients on LinkedIn and therefore lead to miscommunication about their product/service.

These translation errors may not have serious consequences on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter as most users just connect with people they personally know for social purposes, and therefore any mistranslations are usually seen as harmless and in some cases even humorous. However, LinkedIn is a professional platform with the main purpose to connect people from different businesses, who may be able to help each other with their services. Therefore, the consequences of any translation errors that LinkedIn’s feature makes can be much more problematic for its users compared to other platforms. If the LinkedIn feature mistranslates a user’s post, this could lead to potential clients misunderstanding the user’s product/service and then decide not to work with them. Serious translation errors could also lead to user’s feeling embarrassed, as it will not just impact them personally, but will ultimately affect their entire brand.

Overall, it would seem that the general feedback on the LinkedIn translation feature, and machine translation in general, cannot provide the same quality translations as human translators. By using professional language service providers, you can be assured that not only are the words in your translations accurate but that the text is localised to your foreign market so that the meaning behind the text is also communicated accurately. For all your translation needs, contact us.