Google Translate (GT) was launched in April 2006 as a statistical machine translation service, which used the United Nations and European Parliament documents to collect linguistic data. During translation, it looked for patterns in these documents to help decide what the best translation was. The application nowadays, according to their Wikipedia page, includes more than 100 languages and is able to translate 37 languages via photo, 32 via voice, and 27 via real-time video. Quite impressive if it wasn’t for its downsides.
It is true that the tool can be helpful when you are travelling and need to understand the menu in a foreign language, but it’s a different situation when your clients need to translate important confidential or creative documents, which will involve subtle nuances and a good understanding of the source language. If the materials involve legal contracts, financial reports, compliance training materials, health-related documents, pharmaceutical drug trials or global branding videos, Google Translate is unlikely to be the right tool for your business.
It is important to observe that companies may think it’s more cost-effective to avoid using a translation company and take advantage of the free service instead, oblivious to the fact that Google collects all of the translated data. This is especially dangerous when key confidential information is involved.
6 Reasons To Avoid Using Google Translate
Machine translation does save time and reduces costs, but free translation platforms are not ideal when important/confidential/creative documents are involved. Clients could choose a translation agency that has developed its own software instead and rest assured that their documents will be safe and protected.
Bugs can happen with machine learning and machine translation tools. GT now uses a combination of machine learning and the help of human volunteers to make sure translations are more accurate, but it’s still far from perfect.
As the Guardian points out, if the English version of The Girl from Ipanema had been Google Translated, Frank Sinatra would be singing “Girl in the golden body, sun from Ipanema, the it swung its more than a poem”, which clearly doesn’t make much sense. Literature, music, and poetry are not under immediate threat due to the nuances needed to convey the original ideas when translating, which GT still doesn’t grasp.
Back translations are no guarantee of checking if the content has been translated accurately.
To use GT, you need to be connected to the internet at all times.
Interpreters can’t use it because they would have to type everything people said in meetings and conferences into the tool to be able to provide a translation. It would be too time-consuming, inefficient, and inaccurate.
The tool will presumably improve the accuracy of its translations the more human volunteers help by providing corrections and with the growth of the database of documents it analyses, but context and language’s individual subtleties will be a difficult task for it to tackle. A machine doesn’t have a sense of humour and isn’t able yet to find the perfect words for a particular text.
Also, by using machine translations we are giving too much power and information to big corporations such as Google and Microsoft, who have so far developed the best tools.
Although enhanced technology is changing our approach to translation, the traditional translation industry is safe for now, simply because the tools don’t translate cultural values, which is appreciated by companies who are serious about reaching their audience in the best and most natural ways possible.