There are over 6000 languages spoken today (2012 statistics) around the world. However, the most popular languages would be Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, English, Arabic and Hindi. Even out of these major languages it is safe to say that only Chinese, Spanish and English have a major impact on the Internet. The number of Chinese and English websites have exploded as a result of high standards of living in the West and rapid technological advancements in China.
This is why you will often encounter cooperate websites under multiple domains presented in several different languages. Even governments such as Canada with two official languages maintain federal and provincial data in both English and French. While those large companies and governments have the money to spend on manual translations of their websites, private web owners and small business websites often opt in for automatic online translation services.
These services are sometimes offered for a small fee while the majority of them are free to use. While the idea of automated translation by a computer may be great on paper, it is nowhere near perfect compared to manually translated websites. While it is true human translators do make errors, the computers are far worse than that. The best example would be idioms. The idioms in English can be translated to a different language in literal meaning rather than the true meaning. For example, “it was raining cats and dogs in the morning” in English may be translated in to Chinese with the meaning that it was actually cats and dogs falling from the sky! Funny isn’t it? The idioms are not only problem for computerized translations. Taking words out of context and translating to fit the pattern of words before and after it may give a different meaning. Often the out of context words and phrases will make the reader lose interest in the subject matter.
In my opinion, these automated online translation services will turn your professional website to an armature kids site. If you are business website owner, this may even harm your company. If you are a writer or a poet the meaning of your original thought may have been missed by the computerized translation engine. What is the point of creating a website, a blog or any document if part of your global readers mislead due to translation? No matter what level of website you run, I think it is better if a website have no translation option what so ever than to have a automated system.