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Is Google Translate really as bad as people say?

So the other day in my French class my French teacher told us never to ever use Google Translate because it's completely inaccurate and is useless. However, I beg to differ because whenever I'm practising my Spanish, French, German etc. online I always have Google Translate open in case I don't know a word or two. I do agree with her when she says that it's never a good idea to try and translate an entire paragraph with Google Translate.

I'm just interested in knowing: what do you all think?

December 2, 2017



Depends, yes its great for alot of words.

However it can really mess up context, I was trying multiple sentences english to spanish and back again. Gets sentences completely wrong due to multiple meaning words where context matters.


I think putting a few sentances into it is not a good idea, however, if you want to find out a word or two, it is good for that. :)


Google translate works well when you're only doing single words, or translating between languages that have certain grammatical similarities. For instance, translating from french to spanish will probably be a lot more accurate than translating from spanish to khmer, because french and spanish are close relatives, while spanish and khmer aren't related much at all, besides being indo-european.


The Khmer language belongs to the Austroasiatic family. Therefore, Spanish and Khmer aren't really related at all.


Ok, https://translate.google.com.ua/#vi/en/ti%E1%BA%BFng%20Vi%E1%BB%87t https://translate.google.com.ua/#vi/en/ti%E1%BA%BFng%20Vi%E1%BB%87t%20c%E1%BB%A7a%20b%E1%BA%A1n%20r%E1%BA%A5t%20t%E1%BB%91t As you can see, tiếng Việt apparently changes meaning from 'Vietnamese' to 'English' if you add 'your ... is very good' to it. Tiếng Việt của bạn rất tốt is correctly translated as 'Your Vietnamese is very good', but Google translate decides it should be 'Your English is very good'. I have no idea why it does that. Google translate is also absolutely useless when it comes to tone, ignoring tone markings altogether in most cases. My experience of using Google translate with Vietnamese is that it is useless both for translating individual words and for translating whole sentences. Today I was talking with someone about the meaning of mặn mà, which depending on context can refer either to food which is perfectly seasoned, or a woman with a refined and mature beauty. Google translate's translation: salty.

I'll never forget the time that Arabic ezzayak (how are you) was translated as 'I love you', and sometimes I like to play with just how good Google translate is with Spanish (better than it was but still awful) by copying random things and translating them into English with Google. One of my favourites is the time when it translated 'little lake of chocolate' as 'chocolate lobster', but it also gives 'sobremesa' as 'dessert' and many other utter fails. Whatever Google translate gives you, especially when translating from English to English, take it with a very big grain of refined and mature beauty.


"take it with a very big grain of refined and mature beauty."

LOL nice one, I genuinely laughed aloud :D


Google Translate keeps getting better and better. However, I prefer using Reverso for translating between Spanish, English, French and Dutch. I guess it also depends on the languages that you want to translate.


it's usually pretty good for translating one word translations, but it can really mess up translating sentences or phrases.


Well, if something is good or bad somehow always depends on the frame of reference (a term I ironically just checked with google translate) and what you expect or how you want to use it. If you have no one to ask and need to understand the general meaning of a short text in a short time, then it is pretty good, or at least better than nothing. If you want to have a good translation of a text, then it is pretty bad I guess. ;)


Google Translate is better than nothing, but a human translator is better. I think Google Translate has probably improved over the years though. Google Translate also has keyboards in other languages, which is useful.


This depends vastly on what language and what you're asking it to translate.

It's best for individual words and for translation to one's own language, so you have the best chance of spotting if it has screwed up. It's also not completely terrible if you just want the rough gist of something that you're then going to read properly yourself.

Even translating from the target language to your own can be dodgy, though. A machine is not great at spotting understanding context, and without context it is just as likely to give you something utterly wrong as something right.

Approach with caution and a healthy dose of scepticism. I suspect your teacher has made it sound worse than it is to discourage heavy use in homework, but she has a point in that; honestly, your brain + common sense + a decent dictionary is liable to be a better help both in understanding and (especially) in learning from what you're reading than Google could ever hope to be.

It is a LOT better than it used to be - I've been using it since it was in its infancy (back then, for amusement rather than any serious use!), and although it's unreliable and misleading now, it's an order of magnitude better than it was. It's still pretty terrible for many languages, though, and I would only use it as a rough guide.


A machine is not great at spotting understanding context, and without context it is just as likely to give you something utterly wrong as something right.

We are far from perfect too . I would trust google translate before anyone on this forums. I realise it is only a guide. It does not claim to be perfect. As individuals we have to find a way to make it work for us. Too often we want perfection with Google translate. The term "Remoaners" used by Brexit supporters in the UK is apt description of many of the users in Duolingo forums


Google Translate can be used to iterate useful translations. A few months ago, I was browsing through a promotional magazine for Glasgow. The Lady Provost wrote "I am delighted to extend a warm Glasgow welcome to you from a city world-famous for its friendliness, hospitality and sense of fun". As à Glaswegian, I knew what she meant but would a German? I also knew the origins of the term "a warm Glasgow welcome". Glaswegians, rightly or wrongly, believe that their "welcome" is "miles better" * than any other city in the UK and use the term "a warm Glasgow welcome" a lot in this context"

I used Google Translate for German translation of

" Ich freue mich sehr, Sie in Glasgow von einer Stadt willkommen zu heißen, die für ihre Freundlichkeit, Gastfreundschaft und ihren Sinn für Spaß weltberühmt ist."

I understood the first and the last parts but I was baffled by the second part "Sie in Glasgow von einer Stadt willkommen zu heißen".

I clicked the "arrows" icon and got the following English translation

"I am delighted to welcome you in Glasgow to a city that is world-famous for its friendliness, hospitality and sense of fun"

Tweaked it to "I am delighted to welcome you to Glasgow, a city that is world-famous for its friendliness, hospitality and sense of fun." for another German translation of

"Ich freue mich, Sie in Glasgow begrüßen zu dürfen, einer Stadt, die für ihre Freundlichkeit, Gastfreundschaft und ihren Sinn für Spaß weltberühmt ist." which was much better. Clicked the arrows icon again to get "I am pleased to welcome you to Glasgow, a city that is world-famous for its friendliness, hospitality and fun" and again for "I am pleased to welcome you to Glasgow, a city that is world famous for its friendliness, hospitality and fun" which is what Lady Provost should have written in the first place. Perhaps a case of garbage in, garbage out; which has nothing to do with Google Translate

There is nothing wrong with Google Translate!

*Years ago, Glasgow ran a very successful publicity campaign with the slogan "Glasgow's Miles Better". You can get more details on Google.


I should have added "It does what it says on the tin"


Sorry!!! I accidentally clicked on the "thumbs down" icon.


I find it's good if you actually know the languages and can sort the good from the rubbish.

Why use it if you know the languages involved? Lookup of a single word is quite useful and the errors are limited there. Getting text with accents in place to copy/paste on a device without quick access to them is also useful. And my favourite use is in translating long documents.

Eh? Well, for me switching language is quite tiring and it's easier to edit the bad grammar and bad vocabulary from a finished document (even if very mangled as it usually is) than to translate directly - so it is less tiring just working in one language. Obviously with the original as a reference for just in case.


I rarely use it for translating sentences. But when I am doing refresher lessons on Duo, I use Google translate.
They are good for single words, even a few word combinations. It loses something when it doesn't really understand context.
If I am trying to get the gist, or "close enough" so that I can get it on my own, then I use Google. And Google does give you other words that are similar, or alternate words, that mean the same thing when you translate the word.


Here is an older discussion of this. Google translate has become much better than it used to be (IMHO) for some languages, and since that discussion its ability to handle Russian has also improved. If your command of a language is at an intermediate level, Google used to always disappoint, stumbling just where the translation was actually needed--very frustrating. Now it may be at a more advanced intermediate state, at least for French and Russian, as it will often (but, sadly, not always) do a creditable translation.


Typically I use it to translate paragraphs and sentences into my target language. That way I will be able to fix any grammatical errors and meanings.


It's not as bad as some make it out to be, but at a certain point, it'd be better to just use a (online) dictionary which provides more different meanings and contexts.


Words are fine, but sentences are often wrong.


Suggest use your judgement not hers not mine. If you think it helps, use it. Everybody learns different

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