Why Google Translate Doesn't Cut It

Why Google Translate Doesn’t Cut It

Communicating across geographical borders and cultural barriers is a simple fact of life, with more businesses operating on an international scale than ever before. 2017 alone witnessed a 63% increase of global business growth for SMBs – placing previously domestically-focused companies in unfamiliar international territory. Messages lost in translation, whether via email, personal conversation, or otherwise, can undermine or completely dismantle a carefully cultivated international clientele. 


Google translate is an instinctual go-to tool for any organization seeking to up its foreign customer relationship management game, yet this online resource sorely lacks the capacity to mitigate the reputational damage incurred by its glaring inaccuracy. Recently, VisitMexico.com, the English-language partner affiliated with the Mexican Ministry of Tourism, launched a translated version of its website that was undoubtedly machine produced. Words were either badly translated at best or unintelligible at worst, making the site look untrustworthy and poorly managed. Whether Google translate played a hand remains to be seen, but the outcome was disastrous, with both international media and former government officials tearing the site to shreds. 


In a time when the travel and tourism industries have suffered greatly due to COVID-19, these easily avoidable blunders are too costly to take a machine-translated gamble on. The lack of human touch, nuance, and localization challenges make the convenient benefits of Google translate largely insignificant in the long term – pointing to the irreplaceable nature of language service providers.

Google translate is an instinctual go-to tool for any organization seeking to up its foreign customer relationship management game, yet this online resource sorely lacks the capacity to mitigate the reputational damage incurred by its glaring inaccuracy. 

Localization & Revisions – Why They Both Matter


If speed is what you’re aiming for, Google translate has you covered, and it’s where the coverage stops. An integral piece of crafting an accurate, fully coherent translation lies in the ability to revise the written word, time and again, for the intended audience. Alternative vocabulary, grammatical or dialect differences, and the overall flow of a piece are all entirely lost on Google translate.


Localization, which takes the intended audience into account when translating, is simply impossible for Google translate to successfully achieve, undermining even accurately translated messages by missing cultural references, slang, or industry-specific concepts. For example, if translating a medical document, any field-specific terminology will either be literally translated, creating confusion, or will remain in the native language that was originally typed. If seeking to revise a piece after translating it once already, relying on the expertise of a catch-all machine translation will not offer the variety necessary to provide a substantially better second version. In other words, the first draft is essentially the final draft, unlike professional translation, which requires several rounds of revisions before the final product is approved.

The Need for Complexity & Specialization


Phrases like “Hi, how are you?” are easily regurgitated into the language of choice when relying on machine translation. However, capturing the nuance and technicality of the definition of a blow-out preventer, which is “a heavy casinghead control, filled with special gates or rams, which can be closed around the drill pipe…” is clearly not as simple. A document including niche oil & gas terminology, for example, requires not only several rounds of edits, but both sufficient industry know-how and native-language knowledge to be able to produce a professional translation. Google translate and tools like it may be able to capture certain phrases on a sentence-by-sentence basis but do not have the capability to create authentic language cohesion across multiple paragraphs of content. This is where the human touch comes in, which includes a deep well of research, conversational experience, and the ability to add or remove words that do not serve a greater purpose in the context of the translated document’s audience. Yet again, localization is key in this scenario.

When hopping on a plane for a weekend getaway in Rome, there’s little doubt Google translate will suffice — with the exception of a few quizzical responses, perhaps. However, entrusting a company’s reputation and customer relationship management to a free, at times clunky online tool is no walk in the park – potentially producing unexpected chaos rather than desired convenience. Relying on the expertise of long-standing translators can make all the difference when looking to get ahead of the international competition. By incorporating localization expertise, multiple rounds of revisions, and a higher level of grammatical nuance, language service providers beat out Google translate every time.