Why You Should Never Trust Google Translate

Machine translation
Tagged With

Author and Date

Why You Should Never Trust Google Translate

Man vs. machine. Man wins.

For business owners, the lure of Google Translate can often seem far more appealing than professional translation services.

For starters, it’s free. It can translate to and from 90 different languages as of time of writing, and it’s readily available to anyone with an internet connection. But all this comes at a price – it’s notoriously plagued with errors, which has the potential to be incredibly embarrassing for you and your business. Here’s why Google Translate should never be trusted.
A machine can never replace a human
Machine translation is big business. And Google Translate does use some cutting-edge technology to provide its services. However, here behind-the-scenes at Reflective Source we never use machines to help with our translations, and only professional translators carry out document translation, proofreading and final check. Google Translate’s algorithms are, in part, put together using a database of ‘known phrases’. This can be okay if you’re looking for a simple phrase such as ‘Way out’ or ‘How are you?’, for example, but the problem comes with longer, more complex sentences. A relatively simple sentence of 8 words or so is often broken down into its component parts – Google translates these two-or-three-word phrases, then stitches them back together to give you your final translation. The main problem here is a matter of context. Poor old Google Translate, as lovely as it is, just cannot ascertain the meaning of the phrase as a whole. If we take the English language as an example, there are many words that sound the same, and are spelled the same, but mean entirely different things. Google Translate finds it difficult to know the difference between ‘bear’ (the big hairy mammal) and ‘bear’ (to put up with). Fine if you’re writing a letter to a pen-friend in Germany. Not so much if you’re translating a presentation to potential new clients overseas.
When language isn’t so straight-forward
One of the beauties of language is that it’s always changing. New words and phrases are always coming into fruition, no matter how much we might find them annoying (‘selfie’, anyone?!). What’s more, language is chock-full of cultural nuances, jargon and metaphors that either don’t translate, or translate badly! Here is where professional translation services beat Google Translate hands-down. An experienced translator who translates only into their native language is best-placed to know the ins and outs of their language. They live, breathe and speak it every day.
It’s not a case of word-for-word translation
Ultimately, translation isn’t just about taking a word or a sentence and directly translating it into another language. It’s often easy to think that anyone who can speak two or more languages can be a translator, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, the words are important, but what a translator also has to do is to mirror the tone and style of the source text, as well as to accurately convey the meaning intended by the author as closely as possible. A legal translation for use in court, for example, requires a very different tone to a more laid-back and friendly marketing brochure. Translation, like writing, is an art form in itself. It takes a lot of inherent skill and knowledge, as well as a passion for language. With over 2000 translators on our books, we can happily say that all of our translators have at least one professional qualification in translating or interpreting as well as having at least three years experience in their field. And that’s something Google Translate simply cannot contend with. Get in touch today to discuss your next translation project.