How Accurate Is Google Translate? 2024 Research
6 min. read
Is Google Translate accurate? To answer this question, one needs to assess the tool’s translation accuracy across several language pairs. And that’s exactly what we did in our study below.
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Google Translate uses deep neural networks that learn from large volumes of bilingual texts to produce accurate translations. The model is continuously refined through additional training data and user feedback.
Now let’s look under the hood of Google Translate to better understand how it works.
Google Translate’s architecture consists of an encoder-decoder framework and an attention mechanism. The encoder creates a vector representation of the translated text’s meaning. Then, the decoder follows the attention mechanism’s instructions to focus on specific sections of the vector to create a translation.
A 2021 study reveals that Google Translate’s accuracy rate ranges from 55 to 94 percent. The overall accuracy is 82.5 percent. Google Translate accuracy varies greatly across the supported language pairs. For instance, Google Translate is 90 percent accurate for the commonly used English-Spanish language pair and only 55 percent for less frequently used English-Aremenian pair.
In the same vein, Google Translate’s accuracy depends on the type of translated content. Whereas it can reach 90 percent for general Spanish content, it’s only 86 percent for Spanish idioms.
The table below shows how accurate is Google Translate according to a study by Taira et al. Alt: How accurate Google Translate is Note, however, that machine translation accuracy is a relative concept and hinges on its application. A customer support specialist might find machine translation software completely accurate, while legal translation experts might deem it unusable.
Now, let’s conduct our own experiment on how good Google Translate is.
In this experiment, we paired English and Spanish as very frequently used languages in Google Translate.
Although the translation is readable and generally makes sense, it is not suitable for business purposes. See for yourself.
Underlined in red, you can see the superfluous definite article and a poor choice of words.
So, is Google Translate correct? Yes, Google Translate is reliable, but certainly not for commercial purposes. Not only will Google-translated text be rejected by any legal entity, but it can also damage your brand’s reputation.
Compare translation software to human translation in our experiment.
As you can see, the Google-translated sentences are disjointed, and the grammar, readability, and flow need to be corrected for the text to make sense. Overall, machine translation could serve as a ‘quick read’ tool or for cases where the reader needs to get a general idea quickly.
While Google Translate is reliable for day-to-day tasks and simple, non-figurative language, it takes a huge miss on human perception when it comes to translating marketing content or works of literature. Take a look yourself.
Here is an exhaustive list of the errors that Google Translate made in this example:
- Excessively literate translation
- Word-for-word translation
- Poor choice of words
- Extensive wording
- Unnatural word order in the target language.
In the table below you can compare both machine and human translations of the offered paragraph. Google Translate is definitely reliable for a general understanding of the text. What it is not reliable for is posing as a professional human translator. So far, humans - 1, machines - 0.
Taking an experiment on a simpler piece of text, machine translation has shown slightly better results. This proves the fact that Google Translate is a great tool for personal use — to grasp the general meaning of a piece of content.
Below you can see a French text translated into Spanish. The parts underlined in red show inaccurate use of definite articles. To understand how accurate Google Translate is for English-French translation, see the comparison table below. The bottom line is, you should use Google Translate for:
- International travel (road signs and menus)
- Skimming non-English websites
- Conversations with overseas relatives and friends
However, you should think twice before using Google Translate for:
- Business documents
- Financial, medical, or legal materials
- Advertising or public-facing content
Translate is not 100% reliable. Like any machine translation engine, it makes occasional mistakes.
If a sentence or word pair is frequently translated in a certain way, Google suggests it as the appropriate translation, even if it is incorrect. For instance, the Italian word "costume," which means “swimsuit,” is often translated as "costume" in English.
Despite utilizing deep learning algorithms, Google Translate remains just an algorithm. It does not comprehend the text but rather plays a statistics game.
Furthermore, translating a language often involves breaking its rules, which is known as creativity. And since Google Translate’s capacity for creativity is limited by its language model, the tool keeps making mistakes.
When it comes to machine translation, Google Translate is often the first name that comes to mind. However, it is not the only tool available. Let’s compare Google Translate with some of the most popular machine translation tools on the market today.
Google Translate vs DeepL
DeepL is a machine translation engine that uses deep neural networks to generate high-quality translations.
In a study on the translation of Spanish idioms, DeepL outperformed Google Translate with accuracy rates of 89 percent and 86 percent, respectively.
Google Cloud Translation vs. Google Translate
Google Cloud Translation is a machine translation service designed for businesses and developers who require a more robust and customizable translation service.
Both tools show higher popularity among small business representatives.
Amazon Translate vs. Google Translate
Amazon Translate is another popular machine translation service that is part of Amazon Web Services. It uses neural machine translation to provide high-quality translations for text and speech. Amazon Translate is designed for businesses that need to translate large volumes of content quickly and accurately.
The table below shows that when compared to Google Translate, Amazon Translate is favored by small businesses.
Microsoft Translator vs. Google Translate
Microsoft Translator is a machine translation service provided by Microsoft. It uses neural machine translation and artificial intelligence to provide high-quality translations for text, speech, and even images. Microsoft Translator is designed for businesses, which is very similar to Amazon Translate’s target audience.
According to G2, Google Translate stays in favor among small business representatives when compared to Microsoft Translator.
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