Should you trust Google Translate?

There is a widespread opinion that Google Translate is the No. 1 enemy of those who work in the translation sector. Maybe for some it is, and that’s not surprising.

After all, the numbers speak for themselves: over 500 million people use Google Translate every day , for a daily output of around 100 billion words a day .

It is estimated that on average over a lifetime a person speaks no more than two, maximum four languages , compared to approximately 7000 languages ​​spoken throughout the world .

In a world that technology has made increasingly connected, a tool like Google Translate becomes fundamental and automatic translation allows us to break down otherwise insurmountable linguistic barriers.

the translator in flesh and blood is no longer needed

Does this mean that real translators are no longer needed?

Definitely no.

We at Linklab have decided for a long time now that if the goal is success and customer satisfaction , then considering Google Translate as a competitor makes no sense .

In other words, there are cases in which Google Translate is useful (and a translation agency for logistical reasons could not be), and others in which the customer must necessarily turn to a professional translation service (which, like Linklab, uses of a network of qualified native translators ).

menu in foreign language

The advantages of Google Translate…

The advantages of using Google Translate are undeniable and obvious:

  • it’s free .
  • it is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week , via the web browser or dedicated applications for iOS and Android.
  • It’s fast and offers instant translation into 109 languages .
  • it is constantly improving . Born as Statistical Machine Translation , since 2016 Google Translate has become Neural Machine Translation , and uses Deep Learning techniques to translate not words but entire sentences, so as to guarantee greater context precision.

Raise your hand if you, abroad for work or pleasure, have never used Google Translate to ask for directions or decipher a menu. On your smartphone or tablet, the app is always at hand and can solve small linguistic emergencies. After all, the software was created for this and does its job very well.


…and the situations where Google Translate just doesn’t work

  • First of all, be careful: if for English Google is relatively reliable (especially when it comes to texts with simple syntax), in most languages ​​(less widespread or with complex syntax – see for example German) the algorithm is still far away from being satisfactory;
  • Google Translate only offers an “approximate” translation . Instant translation is based on a scan of documents (websites, online documents, etc.) from which the program generates a translation “suggestion”. It is not uncommon to find errors or missing translations;
  • Google Translate does not offer any form of Quality Control or adaptation of the text to specific terminologies, layouts, sectors or markets. In other words, there is no way to be sure that the translated text is correct.


The Google Translate security problem

Then there is another serious problem. That of security .

The main reason why Google Translate is so popular with users all over the world is that it is free. Free but not entirely. In fact, Google asks something in return from its users , namely the possibility of using their data to increasingly feed (and perfect) its algorithm.

This means that even sensitive data (lab test results, financial data that absolutely must not be disclosed, medical records) that you enter into Google Translate for “quick translation” ends up falling into the huge cauldron of data stored and used from Google.

Google’s Privacy Policy explicitly says so : “ We use various technologies to process your information for the purposes indicated. We use automated systems that analyze your content […]. We also use algorithms to spot any patterns in the data. For example, Google Translate helps people communicate in multiple languages ​​by detecting common speech patterns in sentences you ask it to translate .”

In short, if you have signed a Non Disclosure Agreement with a customer committing to protecting the confidentiality of their data and then you get help from Google Translate to write a report… let’s say you would do well to bring up the problem.

If your boss doesn’t know, you have time to take action.

If, on the other hand, you are the boss… then for next time you should look for an alternative solution.

choose between google translate and professional translation

When Google Translate is good and when it’s not

Google Translate works great:

  • if you need help understanding what a text is about;
  • if you are at a restaurant and want to tell the waiter that you like your steak well done;
  • if you need help writing to friends, relatives or acquaintances in their native language with which you are not very familiar. In case of #googlefail, at most your cousin will have something to make fun of you about at the next family reunion.

Google Translate should absolutely NOT be used:

  • to translate sensitive information or in any situation where the content is potentially confidential;
  • when the translation is destined to have great visibility (which, in the case of #googlefail, translates into great Risibility);
  • when the consequences of inaccurate communication are serious and unacceptable.

 professional translators at work

Professional (human) translation. A luxury for a few?

Despite the undeniable progress made by Google Translate in recent years, professional translation is by no means an anachronistic habit.

Language is such a complex tool that no machine has yet managed to replace humans when it comes to producing and translating texts.

Not even Google uses Google Translate to translate its documents and advertisements.

Google is smart.

Be like Google.

The language (and we are not just thinking of that of advertising, but also that used in technical manuals and financial statements) reflects the culture , customs and habits of the writer, with references that a machine absolutely cannot grasp.

The only solution, in all cases where precision and certainty is needed, is to turn to a qualified and… human partner.

For over 20 years , Linklab has provided a professional translation service capable of combining its customers’needs for speed and accuracy .

If you need technical translations , legal or financial translations , contact us for a quote , the peace of mind of a job well done costs less than you think.

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