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Google Translate: What is the worst possible scenario?

Contributed by Wendy Pease, Member and President of EO Boston International report, Specializing in multilingual communication, providing language translation with explain Accurate and culturally appropriate service. We use the right voice and the right terminology to avoid liability, customize the service according to your needs, and deliver on time within your budget. We asked Wendy about the difference between human translation and machine translation. This is what she shared:

In the United States and other English-speaking countries, the slogan “Driving is important!” is reminiscent of the popular automobile company Mazda.

However, in Japan, the company’s slogan is “Jinbai Ittai”, which embodies the feeling that the rider and the horse are crossing the plain in full synchronization, or “the horse and the rider are one body.” Mazda hopes that the slogan will evoke the energy and passion you feel while driving their car. If their marketing department used Google Translate to convert the slogan into English, they would send a very different message to American customers.

On three different occasions, I entered “Jinba Yitai” into Google Translate. The translation of “horse and rider” is as follows:

  • a horse
  • Danger
  • Jinba (now translated)

Fortunately, Mazda’s marketing team researched the best way to adjust its slogan: human translation. Of course, slogans are a special case, so it makes sense for them to benefit from human translation, but what about other texts? How does Google Translate handle everyday language?

Limitations of Google Translate

I recently read Trevor Noah’s book, Born to sin. The award-winning comedian and host Daily show He wrote about growing up in poverty in South Africa under the shadow of apartheid.

In this book, he explained the meaning of several words that are part of his everyday language. I entered some terms in Google Translate to see if these definitions are consistent with Mr. Noah’s interpretation.



Google Translate


Very poor people, even if they live in huts, dress stylishly and act like rich people


Naked boss

Almost white black, “almost right there”

Reluctantly be the boss

Fat cake

Donuts or doughnuts

Fat cake

The results are not impressive. This comparison shows that Google Translate-at least-is limited in the depth of translation and does not take into account cultural understanding.

This is another example.When interacting with foreign colleagues, you may find yourself experiencing what the Japanese say Yoko Rice. This sentence describes the pressure of speaking a foreign language.However, if you rely on Google to translate this phrase for you, it will translate Yoko Rice As “level”.

Finns have a word that fits the pandemic. Kalsarikännit means that you are drunk at home alone, in underwear, without accident. But don’t use Google Translate to talk about this with your Finnish friends! When you use the capital letter “K”, Google defines kalsarikännit as “hip”, and when you use the lowercase letter “k”, it defines it as “pantyhose”.

English translation

Is Google better at translating English words into other languages?

Let’s take a look at the word RedneckFor English-speaking people in the United States, the term “countryman” refers to people who usually live in rural areas and are considered unsophisticated and rude. When I asked Google to translate the country folks into Arabic, German, and Spanish, I got very different answers:

  • Arabic-“backward”.
  • German-“farmer”.
  • Spanish-“White Farmer”.

This shows that Google’s translation capabilities are also limited, whether it is from other languages ​​to English, or from English to other languages.

An experienced human translator with cultural knowledge will know how to translate and adapt these types of words to maintain the intended meaning.

Google Translate: Problems and Opportunities

When I acquired a translation company in 2004, the idea of ​​machine translation was both frightening and exciting.Will it let the company go bankrupt, or will it Make our work easier?

The more we know about machine translation, the more we discover Problems caused by opportunities It provides.

Disadvantages of Google Translate

Understanding the limitations of Google Translate will help you determine whether it is suitable for your purposes.

  • grammar: Sentences translated with Google are usually grammatically incorrect. This may change the intended meaning and have a significant impact on your audience.
  • flow: When you read machine-translated paragraphs, grammatical errors (the order or arrangement of words and phrases) make it sound awkward, stiff, and clumsy.
  • cultural difference: As I mentioned in the example, cultural nuances are important. If you don’t understand what the word means to native speakers, you can’t be sure that your message expresses your thoughts.
  • slang: If you are writing content for machine translation, please be very careful when choosing words. Slang, colloquialism, satire, or idioms are all cultural nuances that may be lost in translation.
  • feelings: If you want to use a specific word or phrase to convey a feeling, make sure that the translation captures the correct emotion. Machine translation cannot understand the feeling behind a word; it just searches for word or phrase matches.
  • intention: Are you going to express your meaning gently or convincingly? Words can have the same meaning but different intentions. The subtleties are lost in Google Translate.
  • Duplicate content: If Google Translate is reading and translating the content on your website, it may appear as duplicate content and affect your search engine optimization.

Advantages of Google Translate

Sometimes it is appropriate and effective to use machine translation, for example in these situations:

  • Random: For casual conversations, Google Translate can be an interesting tool for cross-language communication. There may be translation errors, but when you figure it out, you can laugh at the errors together. In occasional situations, the risk or liability of making a mistake is low.
  • gist: If you need to understand what the content says but there are no other translation options available, such as when you receive an email written in a language you don’t know, Google Translate may be a great tool.
  • Open the door: When manual translation is not a timely option, Google Translate can help. Suppose you make a reservation on a travel website, but you want to check the reviews first. Google Translate can be a handy tool that allows you to gain insights into what fellow travelers think about the list.

To determine whether Google Translate can meet your translation needs, please consider the following. If your translation may lead to increased income, increased risk or affect your bottom line, then your best option is to hire professional translators. If not, please enjoy some crazy translation fun provided by Google Translate!

This article originally appeared in Report International’s website And reposted here with permission.

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