north america melting pot
North America, A Real Melting Pot
December 18, 2015
translation service quality
6 Tips to improve Quality in your Translation Project
January 15, 2016

The Truth About Using Google Translate

risks of using google translate

Last updated on June 23rd, 2023 at 01:13 pm

Free Translation tools will Never Take the Place of Professional Translation Services.

There has been a lot of hype in the media about Google’s translation solutions lately. Google Translate is fantastic for minor term translation, conversational translation and to get the gist of an email or other text where quality or precision is not important, maybe even to have an idea of what a paragraph means.

I find google translate to be a very helpful tool when contacting clients who speak a native language other than English. It’s always great to start the conversation by acknowledging that they speak a different language. A simple “Ni Hao for Chinese speakers or “Guten Morgen” for German speakers helps to start the conversation right.

However as a business it is imperative to use a quality translation provider to ensure the content is precise and the grammar and vocabulary selected is accurate for the vertical and target audience.

There are several reasons not to use Google Translate for business translation or for your website translation.   You cannot afford errors as they will damage your brand, unless you want to be recognized or remembered by translation blunders!

Taglines are tricky to translate

Taglines usually have a double meaning and are intended to attract attention. Translating them with machine translation usually causes a change in the meaning, and often times changes the meaning of sentences, if they are even grammatically correct. Most of the time engines are just incapable of providing a natural and fluid sounding sentence. 

Below is an example of an English into Chinese translation produced by Google translate:

The tagline selected- “I liked it so much I bought the company”.

The literal translation of this Chinese google-translation is- “I liked it, I bought so many companies.”

The words “so much” were placed in the wrong part of the Chinese translation, which completely changes the intended message of the original tagline!

After translating the google translation back into English, Google translate still delivers an inaccurate translation. 

Sorry Google, but you can’t fool native Chinese speakers! 

Homonyms are tricky in translations

Example: I Sell Flying Animals

Homonyms are translation’s worst enemy. Unfortunately an uneducated machine translation engine (read Google Translate, Bing translator or other free translation engines without post edition by a translator) cannot identify from context which meaning you need for the word.

If you sell Sports equipment,  you want to make sure the word for “Bat” is not translated as the animal, like in our example.  These simple errors can ruin your credibility and instantly turn away potential buyers. This is why for business use it is always best to spend the money on quality translation services which can save you from a ruined reputation from the start in this new market.

International SEO is important in website translation

Can’t Find? Can’t Buy!

You need international SEO, translation of meta tags and other elements while translating your website to be in search engines around the globe.

Another unfortunate short coming of the Google translation engine is that the content of your website is not actually in the other languages. It is done on the fly, but doesn’t actually exist on the internet. When a client who speaks a foreign language searches for your products, your website will be nowhere on their list. This is why identifying your target market and having your full site translated is so important. The translation of meta tags and keywords will allow your website to rank much higher when your customers are searching for your products in their native tongue.

All Machine Translations are Not Created Equal

The only true way to leverage a machine translation engine is to work with a professional translation agency that can use it when that option is convenient, when the output quality is good or great, or when post edition can be incorporated if needed.

Machine translation should not be used all the time.  You should use it only if it helps the productivity or the conditions of the project requirements as a good alternative due to cost and time.  And as always- be sure the machine translation quality is good enough for the particular project.

When a translation company works with machine translation software, that software differs from google translate in that they are trainable, which means you can modify the output. The development and use of a glossary with industry specific or company specific terms that is then to fed into the engine to train it, makes a huge difference in the quality of the translation delivered. On the other hand, post editing services are necessary. These are done to improve the quality of the translation and are re-used to train the Machine in a way that continuously improves the translation for your specific requirements. This approach is great for high volumes of text but would not make sense for smaller projects. Whenever possible, try to use a professional translator with experience in your specific industry.

For businesses, Machine translation may be a viable option, but make sure you use a professional translation company that is experienced and well versed in how to train the machine to produce a higher quality end product.  In any case, always hire professional human translation services to make sure your brand image is protected in the targeted language. 65% of online users around the world speak a native language other than English. It would be unwise to ruin your credibility and your first impressions with all of them by utilizing raw machine translation on your website or marketing material.

Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie Ruffolo
Jackie was born in Venezuela and has a BS in computer engineering. As President of JR Language, she spends time researching new technology and productivity tools for the Company. She holds a certificate of Localization and Project Management- Localization. Through her many years of experience working in multilingual corporate environments, she understands firsthand the value of bridging language barriers in creating smooth communication that allows for productive and happy work environments. She is fluent in Spanish and English, and is a frequent contributor to both our English and Spanish blogs. 20 Years of experience in marketing Jackie loves nature and to be outdoors.