When you’re looking to have phrases or entire documents translated, you typically want to do so without having to pay a lot of money. Google Translate offers a fast, convenient, and free way to translate back and forth between dozens of languages.
However, you have to ask yourself how accurate is Google Translate? If phrases or documents are translated incorrectly, it could lead to a significant amount of embarrassment.
Is Google Translate Accurate?
Google has been offering its translation services since 2006. In order to gather sufficient linguistic data, they used documents from such sources as the United Nations and the European Parliament. Since then, it’s been updated with artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the quality of translations. This includes the introduction of Google Neural Machine Translation (GNMT). It doesn’t focus solely on the text’s word sequence. Instead, it looks at the grammar and syntax rules of the target language.
As to how accurate Google Translate is, it’s dependent on the language as well as what it is that you’re trying to communicate.
How accurate is Google Translate for Spanish, you may ask? For the most part, it is fairly accurate. You can easily translate a sentence or two so that you can ask a question at a hotel or figure out what food is on the menu.
How accurate is Google Translate for French? Much of this depends on the dialect that you’re targeting. Google Translate will translate your phrases into French, based on the dialect spoken in France. If you are looking to converse with someone who speaks French in Canada, Belgium, or even Madagascar, some of the phrases may not translate properly.
Google is improving translation more specifically between the most used language pairs. This includes Spanish to English and French to English. For non-technical translations, the accuracy has increased to 85%.
There’s no proofreading service offered by Google because it’s free. This can lead to some awkward (and sometimes hilarious) translations because context isn’t considered. When you are looking at how accurate is Google Translate for Japanese, you could end up with some poor translations. Much of this is because of the language being different.
If you have at least some knowledge of both languages you’re working with, you may be able to do the proofreading on your own. This would allow you to use Google Translate for the majority of the translations. Then, you can go through and fix various things, such as pronoun usage.
When you go from one writing system to another, it can lead to quite a few complications. So, if you translate from English to German, Spanish, or French, it won’t be quite the issue in comparison to translating from English to Japanese, Russian, or Hindi. Why? The writing systems vary dramatically – and it’s why many people choose to rely on human translation services over what Google has to offer.
There is a great way for you to test just how accurate Google is. Translate your phrase from one language to another. Then, convert it back. If the phrase is the same as what you originally entered, it’s likely going to be close enough. If, however, the phrase is completely different, you may want to steer clear of using Google Translate.
Can I Trust Google Translate?
Deciding whether you can trust Google Translate or not is a battle between man versus the machine. Humans win because machines cannot understand sentiment and intent the way that humans can.
Particularly if you don’t speak the language that you are translating to, there’s no way to know whether the translation is correct or not. Particularly with the English language, there are many words that have secondary and tertiary meanings. If Google Translate does a basic translation, it may choose the wrong meaning. It’s fine when you’re conversing with a friend via email but dangerous if you’re trying to globalize your business with new clients overseas.
Metaphors, technical jargon, and cultural nuances don’t translate at all – or they translate badly. If you think it’s a coincidence that “cheeseburger” is the same in both American and French, you are wrong. Google Translate will use “cheeseburger” and be unable to break it down as two words. So, what should be “hamburger de fromage” ends up being cheeseburger because the translation cannot be made.
Often, looking at how accurate Google Translate is will help you to determine whether you can trust it or not. Google has identified that their accuracy is approximately 60 percent. Those in the medical field may say that it’s even less. If you’re looking to translate discharge papers, you have to consider how accurate you want the information to be. Do you want to trust that Google is telling patients the correct care instructions, or would it be better to pay for a professional human translation?
Professional human translations allow you to depend on what’s being translated. Etcetera Language Group offers professional translations in over 100 languages. With the expertise of a team of fluent translators, it’s possible to have phrases, documents, and entire books translated and proofread to ensure that the intent of the document is always captured.
While Google Translate is actively improving through the use of AI and machine learning, it can be difficult to trust them on translations where you need to be professional. Particularly as you depend on translations to communicate with various audiences, you need to know that you’re using the right words – and that your intent is clear.
Some documents need to be certified translations – insurance contracts, government documents, and academic transcripts. Google does not offer certification of their translations, which means that it’s another example of why you cannot always trust the translations that they provide.
If you’re translating a few phrases to help you communicate with a neighbor or while you travel, Google Translate can typically be trusted. However, the moment you need to focus on your professionalism and ensure that you have a competitive edge in the workplace, you’ll want to rely on professional human translation services.