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October 18, 2019 |

5 Reasons Not to Rely on Google Translate 

Many translators and other language service providers were shocked upon hearing the news that an American public institution has relied on Google Translate to evaluate immigrant applications. It comes across as rather unprofessional, given the fact that no one should rely exclusively on machine translation to decide a person’s future. 

ProPublica revealed some details about this practice. According to the publication, immigration officials in the U.S. have been vetting refugees’ social media posts with Google Translate. The author of the article also cites an internal manual used to train officers who work for the federal agency charged with admitting immigrants. 

From this manual, officials learn that “the most efficient approach to translating foreign language content is to utilize one of the many free online language translation services provided by Google, Yahoo, Bing, and other search engines.” 

So, if machine translation is good enough for the government, should companies also use it for their translations? Absolutely not! 

How Google Translate Works

Google Translate is a free service provided by Google that translates words, phrases, and even entire texts in over 100 languages. This machine translation service was introduced in 2006. 

Initially, Google used documents from the United Nations and the European Parliament to get the linguistic data necessary for creating its massive databases. Now, the software has been updated using AI and machine learning to improve the quality of translations.

The software analyses enormous amounts of data and, based on previous translations, tries to deliver accurate results. Despite multiple updates, however, it’s still not able to see the intent behind messages, so it can only provide standard solutions, regardless of the source text. 

Most of the time, Google Translate is pretty accurate. If you need to write a message to your hotel before arrival or check the menu of a restaurant while traveling, this service is just what you need. 

It shouldn’t be your go-to source when handling creative documents, confidential data, or business-related content, however. Google Translate isn’t a reliable provider for translating financial reports, legal contracts, or health-related documentation. 

What may seem like a cost-effective way of speeding up processes and cutting down costs will soon turn against you. That’s because the software alone is unlikely to deliver the quality you expect. Here are five reasons you shouldn’t rely on Google Translate for your business translations. 

1. Software Can’t Substitute Human Translation

Google is the first to recommend not to rely completely on its free translation service. The instructions are pretty suggestive, too. Whenever you use something translated exclusively with Google Translate, you should add the following disclaimer: 

Google disclaims all warranties related to the translations, express or implied, including any warranties of accuracy, reliability, and any implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and noninfringement.

That’s enough proof you can’t use free tools to translate business documents or content that is meant to promote your business in international markets. 

2. Machine Translation Can Cause Hilarious Situations

Passing your marketing content through Google Translate could save time and reduce costs, but it could also put you in uncomfortable situations. The internet abounds with examples of marketing poorly executed because brands decided to take shortcuts in translation.  

And while it’s almost hilarious when it happens to other people, it may not be equally as funny when it’s your reputation on the line. 

3. You Can’t Do Transcreation with Google

Transcreation is a crucial element when looking to expand your brand and reach international audiences. Most brands have discovered by now that translation alone can’t cut through the noise. That’s because, as a brand, you need to overcome more than the language barrier. There’s also a cultural part that needs to be curated to make people buy your products and services. 

In this case, you need to do more than rewriting your content marketing strategy in a new language. With transcreation, you make your message accessible to local audiences, who wouldn’t understand your core message otherwise. 

This process requires excellent language skills and in-depth knowledge of the target audience. This is not something you get from Google Translate. 

4. You Can Have Confidentiality Issues

Free translation tools don’t sign NDAs and don’t care about your confidential data. Some companies even found their classified information online, after some employees had used free tools to translate documentation.  

If you work with sensitive data, such as medical documentation, financial reports, employee and client personal information, you can never be too careful. From what we know, Google may use all your content to improve its translations. You have no information on how this process takes place, nor who gets access to the information you upload online. 

5. Google Doesn’t Correct the Text

Google Translate doesn’t have a proofreading service. You get what you get, and that’s pretty much it. Not bad for a free service, but not enough when you use the translated content for business purposes.  

Some people use back translations to check the accuracy of machine translation. This means retranslating the content from the target to the source language to see whether the text is similar to the original. While it may seem like an accurate way to check for errors, there’s no guarantee you’ll spot the inaccuracies. 

Moreover, this method can at maximum highlight some issues, but it doesn’t have any resources to suggest solutions for the errors. You need a human touch to make your translated texts natural. 

Final Thoughts

Google Translate is free, fast, and pretty accurate. Thanks to its massive database, the software can deliver decent translations that can help you get the main idea of a text. 

However, this level isn’t enough when translating serious stuff, such as legal or medical documentation, business records, a website, app, videogame, or marketing materials. 

The more you hope to achieve with your translation, the higher the need for professional translation services. So, while Google’s translation tool may be the perfect travel companion, it’s not a reliable language services provider for your business.

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