On March 19th, 2017, an article published on WJBC sent out a wrong message about Google Translate, overstating its usefulness as a professional translation tool.

Silvana Tabarez, D-Chicago, the sponsor of a bill that would have made it possible for ilga.gov to be properly translated into Spanish, withdrew her bill due to backlash from Keith Wheeler, R-Oswego and Robert Martwick, R-Plainfield. They mocked the idea of a translation bill that would cost up to $1.5 million when, they said, Google Translate already translated documents for free.

Machine Translation Tool

What these lawmakers seem to not appreciate is that Google Translate cannot understand how humans think or speak. As we have discussed in our blog, machine translation tools like Google Translate can be useful. But they are often inaccurate and unnatural.

Despite these problems, many companies and organizations continue to use tools like Google Translate without human post-editing. “California uses Google Translate on many of its government sites. It translates English into more than 100 other languages, all free of charge,” stated writer Cole Lauterbach from the Illinois Radio Network.

Although some machine translation services are “free of charge,” they are still inadequate on their own. Machine translation has improved over the years. But it should not be the only translation tool used when trying to provide professional translations to the public.

Clearly, costs often strain budgets, but publishing poorly translated materials still sends a very wrong message to the public.

Sometimes, a company might use Google Translate to translate material that is not very important, especially when they have no budget to translate it properly. But then, ask yourself, why provide unimportant content to your customers that might confuse them due to a poor translation?

Our Machine Translation Philosophy

After years of experience with all kinds of translations, here’s our philosophy: machine translation is a great tool for consumers who want content that does not exist in their own language. But, it is a terrible tool for any content producer that wants to make content available to people in other languages.

For consumers, machine translation is a handy, sometimes indispensable stopgap solution. For content producers, such as marketers, it reflects horribly on their own reputation for quality and professionalism.

Oftentimes people will say that low-quality work is “good enough for government work.” These Illinois state legislators need to ask themselves: “Is Google Translate even good enough for government work?


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Gisel Paola Olivares

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