Facts often speak for themselves. And when someone needs a translation from another language, Google translate is currently the translation tool most people use. Online or offline, more than 500 million people use Google’s machine translation system to translate words, phrases, or texts. After all, this tool offers translation in 104 world languages and counting. Users can download complete language sets. And, it is quick and easy to use.

But, still, one question still lingers on the minds of many people in a need of a translation. When can you really use ‘translate Google,’ and do you really need a human translator? Of course, this main question raises a few others.

For what purposes can you use Google translate? Is it an all-around tool that can solve all your translation needs? And, also, what are the do’s and don’t of translation with this, and probably other mechanical/artificial intelligence translation tools?

So, let’s start at the beginning. What is translation? As Thought.co defines it, translation is, in brief, “the process of turning an original or “source” text into a text in another language.” Essentially, it is a linguistic activity designed to be primarily used by humans.

But humans and their language or languages, are, well, human and unpredictable. They change, have their variations depending on who and where speaks a certain language. There are quite a few variables that a translator has to resolve. That translator can be human or a machine, in our case, Google translate.

Certainly, a machine translator is quick, efficient and you can practically use it anyplace, anytime. As a big collaboration platform notes, “it is not that simple to carry a human around in your pocket.”

But, can a machine, ‘translate google,’ resolve all your translation needs?

do's and dont's of using google translate

When can you really use Google translate?

If you ever wondered whether professional translators resort to using Google translate, the answer is – most probably yes. But there is a caveat set of questions there. When, where, and for what purpose?

For example, they might be any from their desks/workstations and they need a quick word reference, with no dictionary insight. Or, they might encounter a word or a phrase in a text they have to translate that is not in the language they are translating not in the target language.

But, in 99% of the situations, they rely on their knowledge, experience, and other tools. These other tools include databases and more sophisticated machine translation tools like Trados.

Still, there are cases and situations when Google translate can come in quite handy. As the Google Translate Help page explains, you can “translate text, handwriting, photos, and speech in over 100 languages with the Google Translate app. You can also use Translate on the web.”

Google translate also makes it possible to download a language on any device (mobile phone, tablet/iPad). This capability allows the user to translate something even when there is no internet connection.

Also, a user is able to “translate what they find through their phone camera. They can use that capability to translate text in the world around them with the Translate app. For example, they can translate signs, menus, or handwritten notes.

“The Translate app allows you to translate in near real-time while someone speaks a different language. For example, you can translate a classroom lecture or speech.” Also, Google Translate app users can save the history to find the meanings of words or phrases they regularly translate into a phrasebook.

This quick look at Google translate capabilities actually gives a general response when you can really use it.

When is it handy to use Google Translate?

For many, the above fact which Google Translate blog mentions that more than 500 million people use this service speaks for itself. Actually, that number is close to the entire population of the European Union (508 million).

This service translates over 100 billion words every single day, or as one source notes, a stack of 128,000 Bibles, every single day. For 92% of Google Translate users, the language they need a translation from is English. Other most requested languages are Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, and Indonesian.

But when can you really use Google translate? This machine translation tool is quite handy when you need a quick, brief, and above all a general sense translation.

What would be a general sense translation? It would be the one where you need to understand in general terms, the essence of a letter or a document. It is a translation that doesn’t to be full and precise. In most cases, these are the translations for personal use.

In work or business situations such translations serve as a guideline whether you need a full, complete, and precise translation. Of course, when you are on a move, in a foreign country, and need a quick translation solution, Google translate can serve the purpose.

It can provide a base for further or complete detailed, and possibly localized translation. This can often include meeting notes, letters, and overall correspondence.

As mentioned above, Google Translate can also serve as a quick reference guide or when a certain text includes words or terms that are neither in the source or target language.

When do you have to resort to a human translator or a more sophisticated tool?

As with any other machine translation tool, Google translate belongs to artificial intelligence technology. This means it works based on a certain algorithm, and the Google Translate algorithm has its limitations.

Hire a professional (and human) translator here!

First of all, if you want to translate specific files, this tool supports only a limited number of them. Google translate is designed to be as quick and mobile as possible and is not suited for slow, expensive file conversions. This includes translating directly from PDF files or desktop publishing programs like InDesign.

Another limitation is that you cannot customize a Google translate finished translation unless you put it through another more sophisticated translation tool or give it to a living translator for editing. It does not have an editing tool nor does it support user collaboration.

One professional translation service lists the situations in which you would need to go beyond Google translate:

  • It cannot fully replicate tone and style – Writing styles and tones, especially persuasive papers or poetic texts, are extremely difficult for machines to translate. A person reading these types of texts will inevitably lose the significance and true meaning behind the words.
  • Human translators are aware of and understand the specific cultures and can adapt translations accordingly. As current terminology goes, they can localize any given text to the specific needs of the end-users.
  • Human translators can properly connect words to a specific context. “Sometimes words have multiple meanings, which can be a challenge for machines to pick up on. Human translators have the natural ability to factor in things like context clues to grasp the text’s true meaning.”

Another translation source adds that Google translate can have problems with specific dialects and relatively new, recently added phrases and slang words.

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Other problems and their solutions

Google translate can have a problem when grammar. As one source puts it, grammar is something that builds a bridge between two languages and cultures. “Without understanding grammar, it isn’t straightforward to translate something correctly.”

Another problem can also arise when a text needs to express certain elements of human linguistic and content interaction like sarcasm and irony. Google translate can often be off-target in such situations. No wonder that there are quite a number of online sites that deal only with often hilarious mistakes.

For most of the above reasons, it turns out that these translation tools is not exactly suitable for businesses, big or small, institutions and organizations. Legal texts or those dealing with rapidly developing technologies do not afford any mistakes in sense, content, or form.

After all, Google as a company and organization does not use Google translate for its own business translations. The company cites this as its goal but is not there yet.

One of the technical reasons that most companies do not use Google translate as its official translation solution lies in the fact that it does not offer them the level of security they may require in many situations. Why?

Whenever you use Google Translate, whether you are translating a single word or a complete document, you give access to Google to store, publish or share that word or the complete text. But very often the documents you need have a varying level of confidentiality that you need to respect.

Living translators still have a final word

There is no denying that Google Translate or translate Google if you wish, can be a useful and helpful tool. In some situations, you just need to use it and it can serve its essential purpose. Also, it is obvious that Google is constantly working on its development and refinement, and the result of that work is evident.

But, then, language is one of the trickiest human inventions, and even more sophisticated machine translation tools still have quite a way to go to get close to the refinement that translation from one language to another requires.

Essentially, human translation is still better than any machine translation, Google Translate included. To get things done, to make sure translation rules and guidelines are respected, you need to have a human translator.

Sure, you can use Google Translate to know what is going on in a document. Also, you can use it to make a decision whether you need to translate it at all, complete or in part.

Still, do have the proper, official translation you would need the service of a living human translator. For its part, BunnyStudio offers the services of professional, experienced freelance translators in quite a number of languages. Most probably, in exactly the language combination you need.