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5 reasons to be wary of Google translations

Published on 19/11/2019

The automatic translators, including Google's, are constantly trying to improve by making significant improvements. Still, Google is always lagging behind, sometimes offering catastrophic translations. Here are 5 reasons why you should not use it for professional translations.

1. Inaccurate translations

Inaccurate translations

Google's translations are quite well known for often giving very inaccurate results. It's very easy to check: Take a text in any language and translate it into Spanish. You will quickly realize that the result will be at best inaccurate, and at worst, unreadable.

This is because Google translates quite literally. Therefore, the Google translator can be useful for translating a single word, so that you can then search for its definition or synonyms. The moment it is a sentence, even a short one, the machine succumbs.

2. A suggestion-based resource

The Google translator offers us the possibility to make translation suggestions to improve this resource. It is a function that has pros and cons, as anyone can make a suggestion. The more people suggest the same translation, the more Google will use it as legitimate.

Apart from providing inaccurate and unreliable results, this has led to "Google bombing" operations. The French socialist Ségolène Royale has been a clear victim of this, as the expression "boobs massage" was translated into Spanish and her name appeared.

3. Mistakes that can harm us

Mistakes that can harm us

A few years ago, one of the largest Japanese travel agencies wanted to enter the American market. They relied on Google's translator to translate their business name into English, which led to the following result: "Kinki Nippon Tourist Company."

In English, this came to mean something like "tourist agency for morbid Japanese". As a result, the agency was sued for promoting sex tourism. Significant damage to the company's image, which fortunately has since been rectified.

4. Translations without context

Google does not take into account the context of sentences or paragraphs. It translates literally word for word. When faced with several possible translations, you will choose the most used or the most recommended one, without taking into account the meaning or the relevance in the context.

This results in a large number of errors. Although in a translation the syntax is also a factor to take into account, once again Google ignores it.

For example, in Spanish, the basic structure of a sentence is subject, verb and complements. In German, however, the verb is often placed at the end of the sentence. Imagine the results.
The more distant the languages are at the syntactic level, the less understandable and the more useless the translation will be.

5. Translations without culture

Translations without culture

Obviously, as it is simply a tool, Google knows neither the culture nor the expressions of a language. So you cannot assess whether the literal translation of a sentence or an expression is correct or not.
For example, if we want to translate an advertising slogan, Google will not know if the translation of the slogan will have the same effect and efficiency on the target audience. However, a professional translator will know.

In short, as you may have noticed, using the Google translator guarantees results that are anything but reliable. It can be used to translate a small text for personal use, but it should not be used in a professional context.

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José Gambín's picture
José Gambín

José Gambín holds a 5-year degree in Biology from the University of Valencia (Spain) and a 4-year degree in Translation and Interpreting from the University of Granada (Spain). He has worked as a freelance translator, in-house translator, desktop publisher and project manager. From 2002, he is a founding member of AbroadLlink and currently works as Marketing and Sales Manager.

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