BAM International : Working translations

An automated service is used to provide job information in many languages.

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The feature

BAM International, Netherlands-based construction and engineering company Royal BAM Group’s overseas unit, uses an automated service to provide job information in many languages.

BAM International houses its main careers information, including job search and application, on a separate site. Each of its five main sections (About BAM, Jobs, Projects, Our People, Contact) has a language selection dropdown, highlighted by a red-green-blue-yellow Google icon. It offers a choice of 80 alternative languages, from Africaans to Zulu that excludes the one in use. When activated, a ‘Google translate’ tool strip at the top of pages shows the current language linked to a similar dropdown menu and has a ‘Show original’ button.

The translation tool covers job vacancy lists, the search tool associated with them and job descriptions but is not available for the online application process. It is also not offered on the Our People landing page, where brief introductions are given for featured staff profiles, though it is available on the full individual profile pages.

The takeaway

It’s easy to see why BAM International would want to deploy the Google Translate service on its careers site: it reinforces its status as a ‘global operator’, and on a scale that it could not afford to build and maintain in-house. Whether this, and the chance it gives jobseekers to browse in their native language, is enough to offset the limitations of the tool itself and its implementation here is open to question. For all that Google Translate is a ‘wow’ service, and that machine translation has improved greatly since its brief moment of fashionableness when it was introduced, its accuracy is limited and still can conjure up comic literal word translations and sentence structures. As such it is better suited to convey the sense rather than the detail of content, which is a major reason why – however much BAM might think the quality has improved – its almost blanket availability is ill-advised,.

The point is well illustrated by BAM itself, which switches off the tool when jobseekers enter the application process – automatic translation can’t be relied upon at this stage, and is most likely not appropriate as the actual jobs will require knowledge of either English (the default working language in an international operation) and/or the language of the location. It’s arguable that the restriction should cover detailed job descriptions (not just to avoid misunderstandings but also misleading jobseekers into thinking they can apply in their own language) and would be better deployed on the summaries of the employee profiles than on the full versions.
First published 04 March, 2014
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