Google Translate
A Great Resource or a Limited Tool?

Since 2006, millions of people have been translating words, sentences, and paragraphs using Google Translate. Although it has its detractors, this tool has helped and continues to help travellers, translators, and expats. But how far can you really get with Google Translate? 

How It Works

Google Translate was specifically designed to overcome the language barrier one may encounter on websites, documents, presentations, and other forms of communication. It allows people to translate texts immediately and 100% free. It is also available as a mobile app which includes the ability to translate the text of pictures.

Thus, this tool brings many benefits:

  • A translator can use it as a dictionary

  •  Immediate translation of web pages, blogs, and printed materials like newspapers or magazines

  • Students of a foreign language can overcome the language barrier by practicing pronunciation


Translating Words or Simple Sentences

Using Google Translate is as simple as copying and pasting a few words. Users can also hear their pronunciation by clicking the microphone icon placed on both sides of the translation. Nowadays, there are 133 languages available. However, not all of them use the same alphabet.

Languages like Russian, Greek, or Arabic are written in other characters, but Google has this covered too. The platform allows you to write in different characters. Also, there's a writing function so that users can draw more complex symbols for languages like Korean, Chinese, and Japanese.

How to Google Translate a Page or Website

1.  From your desktop, type on the search bar.

2.  At the top you’ll find two buttons, “Text” and “Websites”. Click on the latter.

3.  Enter a URL.

4.  Click “Go”.

Once translated, you can switch between both versions through the language tab at the top right corner.

How to Translate Google Docs

1.  Go to the “tools” tab.

2.  Click “translate”.

3.  Write the title of the document, and choose a language.

The Advantages of Google Translate

Undoubtedly, this tool helps all kinds of people, but it's especially useful for individuals traveling or living in a foreign country.

People can visit a place for as little as three days or live as an expat for a lifetime. No matter the length of the stay, a language barrier can be overwhelming and, in some instances, even crippling. Even at airports during transit, an easy source of translation becomes incredibly handy.

Ordering food at restaurants, buying products, finding one's way, and even waiting for the bus can be a challenge when you do not know the language. A decade ago, these simple things were remarkably complicated for expats. Now, all people have to do is type a word into Google Translate, and they’ll have an instant translation. 

If they need to speak to someone but cannot pronounce words properly, they have the option to play it on Google Translate by tapping the microphone icon. In this sense, Google Translate has considerably contributed to conquering the language barrier.

person using black laptop computer

Wider Access to Information

The language barrier doesn’t just exist for travellers; readers and researchers are also affected by it. Hence, the possibility to translate virtually everything that's on the web is a big plus. Some types of information are available in a limited number of languages. Thus, thanks to translation people can access different points of view on a particular subject.

Another perk is the possibility of accessing content specifically written for a certain region. This can be anything from articles, games, essays, and ordinances. Nonetheless, this tool is not always sufficient to overcome language barriers.

How Accurate Is Google Translate?

While Google Translate can help you at the supermarket, the train station, or a clothing store, there are many other situations when it's not enough. When it comes to patient care, therapy, fitness, and similar activities, the situation is quite different.

Let's take the example of a doctor. A doctor needs to communicate with patients and relatives regularly. Such communication requires a great deal of empathy and finesse, especially when sharing bad news.

Languages have certain terms, idioms, and expressions that are generally not captured by Google Translate.

When Google Translate Becomes a Problem Rather Than a Solution

The same goes for important documents like contracts, acts, articles, et cetera. It's important to know that Google translates the general meaning of an expression, but all languages have certain innuendos that machine learning still cannot comprehend. Naturally, this rules out the possibility of using Google Translate for content that you will publish or use for a specific purpose.

Simply copying and pasting a Google-translated text may lead to misunderstandings and misinformation that can have consequences. The severity of those consequences will obviously depend on the type of content, the recipient, and the objective.

If you translate a brochure for your marketing strategy, you may be making false promises unwittingly. Eventually, this may damage your reputation. Needless to say that the consequences of a mistranslated legal contract can be disastrous.

Conclusion—Is Google Translate a Useful Tool or a Liability?

Can you rely on Google Translate? Yes! Can Google Translate be inaccurate? Also, yes! So what makes the difference?

Using Google Translate as a dictionary is genius. Based on machine learning, this tool is great to interpret words or to-the-point sentences. You'll find it very helpful to understand simple texts that don't require a great level of responsibility from you. It can also be quite handy to perform day-to-day activities while on vacation, business trips, or relocation.

However, Google Translate is inaccurate when it comes to long texts like novels, narratives, instruction books, and content that needs to convey a specific message. The machine also still doesn't understand certain idioms and expressions, which can eventually make you less informed than you already were.

This is exactly why Google Translate is still far from replacing human translators for all kinds of texts encompassing legal, marketing, health, educational, informative, and entertaining topics.

We don't know what the future will bring, but for now, nothing can replace good old-fashioned person-to-person communication.

Written By Cecilia Kleiman


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