What’s so bad about Google Translate anyway?

You may have heard me or another language professional talking disparagingly about Google Translate, or another form of machine translation. You might also be thinking, well of course she doesn’t want people to use Google Translate – it is doing her out of a job! But what is really so wrong with using machine translation anyway? It’s free, quick and easy with no messing around, you might think, and all you need to do is paste your text into the box, or install the Google Translate plug-in on your website, and hey presto, your content appears in another language (or several!). In reality, though there are some truly massive drawbacks to this approach, and it should be used with real caution.

Nothing is ever really free. It’s a well-known adage that if something is free, then you are the product. This adage is most famously applied to social media. In this case though, your finely crafted content is the product.

Just take a look at Google’s Terms of Service:

“When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.”

Are you sure you want to hand over that power? It’s not just your content that’s on the table either, using GT entails huge privacy and confidentiality issues. You should never enter confidential information or personal details into GT or any machine translation engine – Google will then own it and can use it if you do. A professional translator will always be willing to sign an NDA and guard your content and information fiercely.

What about quality?

A somewhat nebulous word, but all you need to do is type Google translation fails into, well, Google (or another search engine) and you will see reams of amusing and sometimes downright dangerous translation mistakes. Why dangerous? Would you want the instructions for a medical device your doctor is using on you to be run through machine translation with no human checks? If your barrister were defending you in court and relying heavily on evidence from a French police report from your holiday in Nice, would you be comfortable knowing that no human eyes had so much as assessed the quality of the translation? These are extreme examples, but on a more everyday level, you could be endangering your business reputation if you rely on automated translation when, let’s face it, you probably have no idea what it is actually saying.

To give you one concrete example from my own work, I recently completed a project translating a number of employment contracts. I was actually given machine translation output to revise, and unsurprisingly, I needed to do a lot of reworking, retranslating whole sections from scratch. I can’t go into much detail, but one issue that came up was that GT had incorrectly translated several very different French job titles all as CEO in English, which if left uncorrected could lead to some serious misunderstandings!

To circle back to my point about cost, you may have seen a diagram before that is sometimes referred to as the Trade-off Triangle, and looks like this:

It applies to pretty much every industry, but is particularly relevant here. Machine translation might tick the cheap and fast boxes, but it sure as hell doesn’t deliver on quality.

By choosing to work with Josephina Worrall Translation, quality isn’t something you will need to worry about, because not only will your content be translated by a trained professional, it will also be checked by another, very exacting professional translator too. And all in the strictest of confidentiality of course! If I have managed to convince you of the dangers of Google Translate and other machine translation engines, then book a no-obligation callback with me by filling in the contact form here, or drop me the details of the translation you need doing by email to


© 2019 by Josephina Worrall Translation

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