Month: April 2017

Question of the month: Google Translate – Friend or Foe?

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A perennial hot topic in the world of translation is the use of Google Translate and other machine translation tools.  There is no denying that Google Translate is a fast and powerful tool that makes content in over a hundred languages accessible to anybody with an Internet connection. Google Translate and its ilk are good for some tasks like grasping a basic understanding of what a text says or writing a letter to a pen pal.

For business purposes, however, they are still nowhere close to replacing professional translators. Machine translation tools might be getting better, but they still struggle to accurately convey the nuances of texts and provide error-free translations. After testing two free online automatic translation services, the Wall Street Journal concluded that, “these services are passable for travellers or for those wanting to translate a letter from a distance cousin. I definitely wouldn’t use them for business or anything that remotely requires accuracy.”

Another big issue needs to be considered before using Google Translate, namely confidentiality. By uploading any file to Google Translate, you give Google (and those it works with) “a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works, communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.” I think that it is worth thinking twice before losing control over the secrecy of your sensitive information, for instance details of a proprietary technology, embargoed financials or a potential merger. In this case, “free” translation can have a big cost.

And one last point: Even Google doesn’t use Google Translate for its own business communication, instead choosing to work with human translators to market its services. So, to sum up, it is advisable to limit your use of Google Translate to understanding the gist of non-business texts, but turn to a professional translator when it counts.

Next month we’ll continue in the series by looking at the question of how to optimise your translation budget.