Is Google Translate Reliable Enough for Your Business?
With 133 supported languages and 1 billion of users worldwide, Google Translate is seemingly turning human translators into endangered species. But before we declare translation experts obsolete, let’s explore how good Google Translate is.
Is Google Translate reliable enough to entrust it with business translation?
To answer this question, we have tested the accuracy of Google Translate for 3 language pairs. We have also explored how it stacks up against other popular machine translation tools.
Keep reading to find out:
-How accurate is Google Translate?
-Why does Google Translate make mistakes?
-Google Translate vs popular machine translation tools
-Use cases for Google Translate
Pro tip: To manage a business translation project, use a professional localization platform with built-in machine translation functionality. With it, you can shorten time to market, avoid translation blunders, and save money. Learn more.
What Is Google Translate?
Google Translate is a neural machine translation service freely available online.
Google Translate offers text translation for 133 languages, photos — for 37 languages, voice messages — for 32 languages, and even video — for 32 languages.
But how good is Google Translate?
How Accurate Is Google Translate?
Google Translate is accurate in most cases. Generally, its accuracy rate is upward of 90%.
Note, however, that accuracy in machine translation is a relative concept.
Google Translate accuracy depends on the tool’s application. A customer support specialist might find machine translation 100% accurate, while legal translation experts might deem it unusable.
Google Translate accuracy also varies greatly across the supported language pairs.
For instance, Google Translate is 90% accurate for the frequently used English-Spanish language pairIn contrast, translations from English to Armenian have a lower accuracy rate of around 55%, as it is not a frequently used language pair.
Numerous studies have been conducted to determine the accuracy of Google Translate. These studies demonstrate a range of accuracy rates, depending on the specific language pairs used and the context of the translations.
For example, in 2019, UCLA and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center analyzed Google Translate's accuracy in translating medical instructions.
The study found accuracy rates ranging from 94% to 55%, depending on the source language and pair, with an overall accuracy rate of 82.5%.
Check the infographics below to see more Google Translate accuracy rates based on other languages used in this study.
Source: Centus, UCLA, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
In 2018, the University of California, San Francisco, and San Francisco General Hospital also focused on using Google Translate in medical cases (from English to Spanish and Chinese). The overall accuracy rates were 92% for Spanish and 81% for Chinese.
Note that these studies tested how accurate is Google Translate only in a strict context, where any ambiguity in the translation could cause harm. In less crucial situations, a slightly inaccurate translation may still be acceptable.
Now, let’s conduct our own experiment on how good Google Translate is.
Google Translate accuracy: Spanish to English
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 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.
Google Translate accuracy: English to Russian
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
Poor choice of words
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.
Google Translate accuracy: Ukrainian to Spanish
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 text in Ukrainian translated into Spanish. The parts underlined in red show unnatural sentence structure in the target language, unnecessary repetition of words, and excessively literal translation.
To understand how accurate Google Translate is for Ukrainian-Spanish 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:
Financial, medical, or legal materials
Advertising or public-facing content
Why Does Google Translate Still Make Mistakes in 2023?
Despite utilizing deep learning algorithms, Google Translate remains an algorithm. It does not comprehend the text but rather plays a statistics game.
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” in Italian, is often translated as "costume" in English.
Google cannot comprehend if the translation it generates is sensible or not, particularly when the sum of its parts does not create a coherent whole. Only humans can evaluate it.
Last but not least, 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 current algorithms, the tool keeps making mistakes.
Google Translate vs. Popular Machine Translation Tools
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. There are several other popular machine translation options that are worth considering, each with its own unique features and capabilities.
Let’s compare Google Translate with some of the most popular machine translation tools on the market today.
Google Cloud Translation
Google Cloud Translation is a machine translation service provided by Google as part of its cloud computing services. It is based on Google Translate and uses the same neural machine translation technology to provide accurate translations. However, Google Cloud Translation is designed for businesses and developers who require a more robust and customizable translation service.
Google Cloud Translation vs. Google Translate
Compared to each other, both tools showed higher popularity among small business representatives.
The table below shows how Google Cloud Translation and Google Translate compare ratings-wise. As you can see, reviewers marked Google Translate as a better partner in doing business among other categories. Bonus — it's free.
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.
Amazon Translate vs. Google Translate
The table below shows that when compared to Google Translate, Amazon Translate is favored by small businesses.
As the image below shows, Google Translate is almost universally preferred to Amazon Translate by business owners.
DeepL is a machine translation software and service developed by a German company. It is known for providing high-quality translations that are often more accurate than those provided by other machine translation tools. DeepL uses deep neural networks to analyze text and provide context-aware translations.
DeepL vs. Google Translate
DeepL outperforms Google Translate in most cases when it comes to translation accuracy. Its neural network is trained on a massive amount of high-quality data to provide more accurate translations. In contrast, Google Translate uses a statistical machine translation approach that relies on pre-existing translations.
Google Translate has a significant advantage over DeepL in the number of languages it supports. Google Translate supports 133 languages, while DeepL only supports 26 languages. However, DeepL has recently added several languages, including Japanese and Chinese, to its platform.
Both tools are user-friendly, but Google Translate is slightly easier to use thanks to its simple and intuitive interface. On the other hand, DeepL's interface is more sophisticated. It offers additional features, like translation memory, allowing users to save frequently translated phrases to use in the future. This feature is highly valued by professional translators, legal workers, and clerks.
Google Translate is free, while DeepL offers a free trial and several paid plans. You can see DeepL pricing in the table below.
The choice between DeepL and Google Translate depends on the user's needs. If accuracy is essential, DeepL is the better choice, but Google Translate is the way to go if language support is more critical.
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.
Microsoft Translator vs. Google Translate
According to G2, Google Translate stays in favor among small business representatives when compared to Microsoft Translator.
Still, Microsoft doesn't support languages like Yiddish and Xhosa. If you are looking for a tool that offers unique language choices, Google Translate is your go-to tool.
However, there are multiple advantages Microsoft Translator has over Google Translate, like ease of use and quality of support. Overall, viewers state that Microsoft Translator is a more reliable business partner compared to Google Translate.
ChatGPT is a language model developed by OpenAI. It is not a traditional machine translation tool, but it can be used to translate text and write it from scratch. ChatGPT uses state-of-the-art natural language processing technology to provide accurate translation. However, it may not be as fast or efficient as other machine translation tools.
Today, there is a wide variety of language tools that makes daily and business tasks much easier. While Google Translate is a popular choice, other tools such as DeepL and Microsoft Translator are known for providing higher-quality translations. Businesses and developers should consider their specific needs when choosing a machine translation tool.
ChatGPT vs. Google Translate
Although ChatGPT is mainly used to benefit the Computer Software industry, it has also shown great benefit for Marketing and Advertising tasks.
Source: Grid Report
Let’s take a deeper dive into the benefits of both tools.
ChatGPT shows better performance when it comes to translation due to its advanced AI technology and the ability to understand the context of the text.
ChatGPT is quite young, still. It only supports 14 languages at the moment, compared to Google Translate with 133 languages.
Since you have to draw up a task for ChatGPT to do what you want it to do, we would say Google Translate is slightly more intuitive and easy to use.
Both tools are widely appreciated by the business community while being completely free.
How Does Google Translate Work?
Google Translate has come a long way since 2006 and has become a more reliable machine translation tool. Let’s see what lies underneath its success.
The improvement in translation quality is attributed to the implementation of a complex machine learning algorithm — neural network learning, announced by Google in 2016.
This system enables the machine to analyze and compare countless texts from various sources. Google Translate takes into account the full context, rather than translating isolated words.
However, the translation errors we talked about earlier are probably courtesy of the intermediary language.
Suppose, a user wants to translate from French into Korean. In that case, Google Translate translates French into English first, and only then into Korean.
Google Translate processes millions of translations every day. It allows it to identify different patterns between language pairs and become more accurate with each passing day.
Additionally, Google Translate utilizes speech recognition and optical character recognition technologies to provide translations of pictures and voice messages.
How to Spot Google Translated Text?
As a content manager or a business owner, you might want to know when people rely on machine translation rather than human expertise.
To this end, you can either use an AI Content Detector or analyze the text yourself. If you opt for the latter, here are the telltale signs that someone has used Google Translate:
Word order: Unnatural word order in the target language may be a sign that Google Translate was used.
Gender issues: Google Translate may not accurately translate gender-specific words.
Tone issues: Google Translate may struggle to convey the tone or style of the original text.
Word type issues: Words can have multiple meanings, and Google Translate may use the wrong one.
American vs. British English issues: Google Translate may not distinguish between American and British English, leading to awkward phrasing.
Although Google Translate is pretty good now, it still has limitations. By paying attention to the issues mentioned above, you can distinguish between human and machine translation.
Google Translate: Use Cases
As a business owner, you're always looking for ways to expand your reach and increase profits. One tool that can help you achieve these goals is Google Translate.
Here are a few ways you can use Google Translate to benefit your business:
- Localize products and services: Google Translate can help you reach new markets by translating your website, marketing materials, and other content into different languages. This can lead to increased traffic and higher profits.
Pro tip: Looking for reliable yet affordable translation?? Use a professional localization suite – Centus. The suite leverages machine translation algorithms, translation memory, and QA checks to streamline your localization process and boost your team’s productivity. Learn more.
Boost work efficiency: With machine translation extensions, employees can quickly translate emails, documents, other communications, and online tools making their day-to-day tasks easier and more efficient.
Speed up the studying process: Students can use Google Translate to translate foreign language texts and improve their language skills.
Ease up your freelance translation project: Freelancers can use Google Translate to assist with their translation projects, saving time and effort.
Google Translate's advanced technology is becoming an essential tool for communication and promoting cross-cultural understanding. By utilizing its capabilities, you can expand your business and increase its efficiency.
Can I trust Google Translate?
Yes, you can definitely trust Google Translate. It will give you a general understanding of the text and even help you improve your quality of life abroad. However, it might not be the best choice for a fiction reading and any legal document translation.
Is Google Translate reliable for website translation?
Yes and No. While Google Translate performs well for general website translation, it’s not always accurate. The tool might provide you with a broad understanding of online content, but using it to translate and publish content on your own website is not recommended.
What is more accurate than Google Translate?
For those who prioritize accuracy, you might want to opt for DeepL. Although it supports fewer languages than Google Translate and can be more costly for large-scale use, DeepL is known for having the most accurate translation among all translation services especially for European languages.