Google Language Translation: Cheap and Fast but Accurate?

Machine translation (which is what powers Google Language Translation) has certainly gotten better over the last few years. Results of Google’s latest artificial intelligence-based translation technology are said to be almost on par with those of human translators. But after more than 15 years in this business and after having looked at thousands of documents, I just don’t buy it.

Not that machine translation doesn’t have a place at all. When you want to know what a text says, by all means, go ahead and plug in the text into an app. As well, if you are going to produce content for internal use within your company, using a translation application may also be an effective and certainly cost-efficient solution.

But if you are going to produce a document for public consumption, beware! When Google says that their A.I.-powered translation tool is almost on par with human capabilities, ALMOST is just not good enough!

Let’s say you are producing an advertisement for a product and need to translate its slogan, catch phrase, and whatever other enticing text you want to sell you product with, there is absolutely no replacement for the genius of the human mind to create that advertisement in a foreign language. Doing anything less than hiring a human translator can result in the ad being a complete flop and leaving your product and company exposed to flagrant mockery. It’s happened before. In the case of one of our clients, their video game product was taken off of store shelves in the French province of Quebec because the machine translation they printed on their packaging was incorrect. Yikes! Think of the financial loss resulting from such a poor decision!

Now imagine another scenario in which you need to translate an industrial manual with highly technical instructions for a niche product. Unless the automated translation tool has been equipped with terminology and all the nuances pertinent to your industry (which it unlikely would be unless you have “trained” it over a number of translations), it is unlikely to match the expertise of a human translator who has been personally exposed your field and understands precisely what is meant by every word and expression that needs to be translated.

So, all in all, the next time you want to read that memo written by your company’s headquarters in another country, be my guest. Fire up your Google language translation app and go at it. But if you have a serious piece of marketing, legal or product content please hire a reputable translation provider who will make sure that your language translation really makes sense.

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