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Content Management Forum

Is Google Translate tool reliable

 1:33 am on Dec 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hello All -

I'm not sure if this the correct forum for this question (Moderator... if it's not, please feel free to move it to a more appropriate category) but a new project has the requirement for text translation of all content on each page.

Question is: does anyone have any experience with this service having reliable results?

Many years ago, I used this service to translate simple flash words for a banner. The phase translated was "Welcome to Our World". Didn't get any negative feed back on the translations in Spanish, German, and Japanese. But a few Arabic speakers noted that what the phase said in Arabic was "Your mother eats grass".


Anyway, maybe things have improved and would greatly appreciate any advice regarding the validity of this free service, or if there's another service (paid or not) out there which is more reliable.

Thanks to all in advance.




 2:40 am on Dec 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm not even sure what forum that should go in.... but since I'm bilingual and try out translation tools from time to time, might as well leave it here.

My general experience is that the improvement in the last five years is dramatic. It used to be a fun game to put something into a translator, then take the translated text and translate that back. So English -> French -> English.

Anything complex would come out gibberish and sometimes hilarious. I just took something and went English -> Bulgarian in Babelfish and then Bulgarian -> English in Google Translate and it came out virtually identical.

So a quick test you can use is this. Let's say you have four main languages. English, Spanish, German, Japanese. Take some text and go

English -> Spanish -> German -> English. If it looks good at the end, then the intermediate steps are probably at least okay.


 3:21 am on Dec 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I am using google translate web-based tool from last 2 years and its working great as i have checked with different languages and there was no problem in results. You can check it by giving some simple words in different languages,check directly from [translate.google.com....] If you want to try some other tools then you can use any translating tool like babylon9, its giving option for free trial as well. Check the details of this tool from [babylon.com...] I hope you will find google translator a best tool. Thanks


 7:10 pm on Dec 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

I havent' used it for business. What I have found is that it will give you the gist of the text.

One thing you can try is something like

Translate a passage from english into italian
Translate that back from italian to english

You will see occasional quirks.


 9:43 pm on Dec 14, 2011 (gmt 0)

###. Are you thinking about using Google Translate to generate text for public consumption? I would never, ever dare do that. Only to find out what text in some other language says.

I agree it's getting good. I can take their Spanish translation of {much-requested picture book}, plug it back into the translator and come out with something reasonably similar to the English original. But it only takes one slip and you're in "We desire you carnally" territory.

If you've ever been on a forum with a non-native speaker of English, you must have done the Dictionary Dance at some point. Funny that Italian was mentioned, because that seems to be where I do it most often ;) Sooner or later your non-native speaker will use an English word that doesn't seem right but you can't figure out what they meant. So you look up the various Italian meanings, go to the other half of the dictionary and look those up, and you'll see what word they were aiming for.


 4:26 am on Dec 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hello All -

Thanks very much for everyone's replies - I'll be doing some testing via Google Translate next week to see how it fares. Babylon9 looks interesting as well but I don't think it provides "on the fly" web translation.

Please keep other software related options coming if anyone has used another package that they're happy with.

travelin cat

 8:36 pm on Dec 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm with lucy24 on this. I would never, ever use a translation tool of any type on my websites. This is just asking for trouble. If you can't afford to hire a human translator to at least review the output of any software, you could easily make yourself look ignorant and/or offensive.


 9:57 pm on Dec 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

I don't know. I look through my logs and I see a lot of users accessing one of my sites using Google translate. I have also seen sites that use it to generate content.

Why not? If they can't read English you've lost them anyway. And if you're talking about 100 web pages, it's going to cost you $1000 to $20,000 to translate professionally depending on the language and whether you go with an elance bottom feeder (likely to be rather inaccurate and since you don't know the language you can't even be sure; you have to hire a second person to verify) or a real, credentialed translator (a serious translator is going to be in the 10-20 cents per word range). You can't possibly afford that for 25 languages.

I've hired people in the mid-range for a language I know pretty damn well, and even in the midrange ($30/hour), the error rate and "awkward rate" was quite high. Better than Google translate, but not $5000 better for most purposes.

I think having big warnings saying "This is translated by Google translate, may not reflect original intent" and putting it out there would work in a lot of situations.

Medical advice: no.
Basic description of various tourist destinations in your area: sure.


 12:13 am on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

If they're using translate, they know in advance that the site is getting translated on the fly by a machine. But if you offer up a Spanish-language version of a page, the user would reasonably expect that some real human work has gone into the translation. Sure, you can have it roughed-out by machine before handing it off to a human for final approval. But don't leave out that last step.


 10:07 am on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

I have used google translator many times to read articles but found not sufficient enough to use for writing web contents. Although it has improved much in last few years but even then there are many chances of mistakes or wrong translation. So I shall recommend you to hire some professional translator for your project to get the best results.

Mr Bo Jangles

 10:54 am on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

I'm with ergophobe.
I used professional freelance translators, multiple languages, multiple translators, and it was just so much work, and then not perfect (or so a woggie visitor told me), and then the enormous headache of doing it all on an on-going basis as you make amendments to your site. And all because I thought I'd get some non-English sales - it was just a huge time-consuming failure. But I definitely learned my lesson - never, ever tempted again. Just put another 5% effort into extracting business from the English speaking World and you'll be ahead by a country mile.

And I won't charge you for the best bit of advice you've received this year! *_*


 11:07 am on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Didn't get any negative feed back on the translations in Spanish, German, and Japanese.

That doesn't necessarily mean they're good translations. As a webmaster and as a user, I would never do business with a website that machine-translates its content (or ads). Wouldn't link to it, wouldn't buy from it, wouldn't like it, would be a little insulted, would remember it, would press the back button and block the site from search results.

Of course, Google is just as good at catching machine-translated language as any near-native speaker. If all of this doesn't apply to what you're planning on doing, however, then by all means give Google Translate a go. The amount of language data they have at their disposal is immense and rapidly growing, at the same time maturing the quality of their translation service.

Mr Bo Jangles

 11:24 am on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

If the web site clearly indicates that what is being displayed is a Google machine translate - and it will not be perfect - then I would think most users would factor that in and be perfectly happy with what they were given. That's how I react when I interact with machine-translated foreign sites - it's not perfect English, I can see that, make allowances.


 5:38 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Similarly, the way I've seen it done is where the user selects the language, rather than being fed a given language based on IP or some such, and it clearly states that it's an automatic translation by Google translate. And though I know a smattering of German and though the translation was occasionally incomprehensible, it was better than what I would do myself with a dictionary and my old college German textbooks.

At least for me, that mitigates more than enough the issues mentioned by robzilla and Lucy24 with respect to hurting your brand. Of course, you do not want to try to pass of machine-translated content as "primary". You may want to exclude the foreign-language text in your robots.text for the reasons robzilla mentions.

But my experience and Mr Bo Jangle's suggest that as long as it is clear where the translation is coming from, people will be grateful.

Meanwhile, I've published seven books in French, but I'm not a native speaker. I have therefore hired people to read over my texts and correct them. The really good ones have done it for free, because they support my project. They aren't for hire and I could never afford them if they were.

The ones I have hired to edit my writing - native speakers all, one a doctoral candidate in French literature to boot - have generally been mediocre at best. In the case of the native-speaker, doctoral candidate in literature (you would expect the best, right?) the text was completely mangled. She ended up with sentences that in English would read "The accused was convicted and hit with a 500 franc almond.", confusing the French words "amende" (a fine) and "amande" (an almond).

My point being that top-quality editing and translation cost a lot of money and hiring some random native-speaker off elance is not close to good enough if the translation must be excellent. If I want to be sure a translation is going to pass muster with discerning native speakers, I need to pay a small fortune to get a true professional to take on the task.

Sure, if you have a four-page site and you want bad to mediocre translations, you could have it done for $100-$150 per language (so only $1000 for ten target languages), but
1. Who has a four page site?
2. Since the result is going to be crappy anyway, why not do it for free?

If you have a site that is 100 pages and have ten target languages, a serious translation effort is going to set you back over $100,000. I can lose a LOT of customers before I make back that investment.


 6:40 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

The ones I have hired to edit my writing - native speakers all, one a doctoral candidate in French literature to boot - have generally been mediocre at best. In the case of the native-speaker, doctoral candidate in literature (you would expect the best, right?) the text was completely mangled. She ended up with sentences that in English would read "The accused was convicted and hit with a 500 franc almond.", confusing the French words "amende" (a fine) and "amande" (an almond).


Funnily enough about 5 minutes ago I just finished correcting translations..for free* ( English to French) that had been done in a similar "interesting" ;-) manner, by "qualified professional translators" for someone..

They have a "bi-lingual" site, and wondered why the French were not enquiring ( inquiring - enquiring has already been the subject of lively threads here :) about their services and products..first time I looked at their site, I told them "I'm sorry, but it has so many errors in the translations, that anyone French would hit the back button..or laugh out loud", even the translator should have realised that the sentences make no sense when they read through their work in French..

However, the translator just trousered the money ( a lot ) and left the poor "rosbif" with a site to amuse the francophone gallery..some parts were also incredibly "wooden", using heavy and stilted formal business terminology, the sort of words not used in France for the last 50 years or so, totally unsuited to the subject of the site..( handicrafts instruction in small groups and things for very small kids to make )..the site code is horrid too, made in "word" with pages of thumbnails that are actually huge 5 meg jpegs "squashed" into 100 px "click to show larger image" bandwidth eaters..ackk!

That is the next thing to fix :)

* free because as Tom says..some you do for free..the site owner hasn't the money left to pay for corrections, and she gave me a very useful address of a supplier of materials that is only 60 kms from me, instead of 1200 kms further south..and I like the idea of what she does..:)

I agree with Tom and Lucy..if it is obvious ( make it so..give them the link to the Google translate button ) that you are giving them "auto-trans", it is better than nothing ..as far as French goes , Google is now better than Babylon or Systran ( even the most expensive versions of both ).but bear in mind, if you provide translations or links to translations, you will get emails etc enquiring about products or services in those languages, and auto-trans can get you into costly errors if you use it to carry on conversations..


 8:38 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Another peril that I just discovered by accident:* sooner or later, your site will contain random non-English words. My test case happened to be a story set in Japan, and I had it translated into German. The overall results ranged from fair to horrendous, but what especially caught my eye was a recurring italicized willen.

Any German speakers around? I was entirely stumped and had to consult the original. Later I showed it to a German to share the laugh. He dutifully responded: Have a glass of willen.


Incidentally, the italics in German were unnerving in their own right, because I spend most of my time with older texts that use gesperrt. Would an auto-translator know which Japanese words go into katakana rather than hiragana?

* Insert boilerplate about nagvaaqtara. I was checking to make sure my hotlinking exemption for g### translate was working as intended. This is essential in the case of picture books, since Translate gives itself rather than my page as referer.


 9:04 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

I think the translators are just about decent for single sentences where you're able to visually chek the grammar which kind of defeat the purpose.

imagine an article of 50 ten word sentences translated into 50 valid sentences. but the 50 sentences have their meaning slightly shifted during the translation

one see's many articles in English on the web where the overall thrust of the article is just about visible,


 10:45 pm on Dec 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

Neophyte - I think it would help if people knew a little more about your content: quantity, purpose, etc.

As I said before, for some types of content, no way. For others, why not?


 1:07 pm on Dec 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Hello All -

I didn't expect this thread to receive so many responses. Great thanks to all who have participated so far.

Regarding ergophobe's question about what type and volume of content might be translated, it would be for a hospitality (hotel and restaurant) ranking site.

Indeed, the content for this site would be updated regularly with new hotel/restaurant reviews as well as feedback from those who have visited the establishments listed (think TripAdvisor, etc).

English would be the base language but translations are being considered in Japanese, Korean, German, French and Dutch.

Given all of the feedback so far - and potentially regular site additions and feedback comments - this may very well not be a good idea from a standpoint of machine translation accuracy and human translation cost (and accuracy) UNLESS just the home page text was accurately human translated (and checked) with a disclaimer that all other pages will be displayed in English.

Under this scenario, would just a home page translation (and disclaimer that all other site text would be in English), be seen by non-native English end users as a tease? Or would they appreciate this comparatively minor effort to court their interest in the site and it's English content?


Yulia from DNP

 4:05 pm on Dec 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

The Google translate tool is fine.
I'm pretty sure its one of the Google translate tricks (like with justin bieber) or maybe its you translating it couple of times till you used Arabic.
You need to understand that the translator wont be perfect , at least for now .
Because Google translate = literal translation. Meaning that it wont sound quite right in other language.
Still, i don't know hot you got ... "Your mother eats grass"..but you can relay on Google translate


 7:25 pm on Dec 21, 2011 (gmt 0)

Unless you'll be taking reviews in multiple languages, I don't really see the point of a translated home page.

If you wanted a professionally translated home page with instructions on how people could use yoru site using Google Translate, understanding the limits etc etc etc etc, that might be worth it.

Take some of your content, run it through two intermediate languages and back to English and see how it does.


 4:26 pm on Jan 29, 2012 (gmt 0)

I was translating some religious themed material from an Asian language into English the other night. I am well familiar with this Asian language (I was a translator and worked for the government and the UN in translating documents from this language to English).

The google translation results were of the "spit-milk-out-you-nose-while-reading" variety. Since it was a religious themed sites, the information, as they were translated by google, would be heretical at best, and illegal at worst.

Good times.

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