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Check with Google Translate results never match

Yes I know Google Translate often gives wrong translations. Can not pick up slang etc..... How ever it is close for the most part.

But you use it with Latin the results are never anywhere close to what I would expect. It is almost like as the Latin being taught in to course and the Latin Google Translate works with are two different languages.

Any thoughts on this observation ?

September 6, 2019



Sure. Google Translate is almost incomprehensibly awful at Latin, even single words, which is bizarre given the size of the possible source corpus for translations.

For example, inspired by a recurring theme in the Duolingo Latin course, I recently asked Google Translate to translate the single word "parrot". I got back "mascarene parrot" (no joke).

I then asked for "parrots". I got back "psittacorum". Okay, we're at least in the ballpark now, but in the absence of other context, why is Google handing me a genitive plural instead of a nominative?

Finally, I got brave and asked it to translate "Weasels kill parrots". I got back: "hos occidere psittacorum", which is not even comprehensibly wrong (I think this is "These-accusative kill parrots-genitive", and when I phrase it that way, it sounds like the start of a very famous Monty Python scene). At that point, I simply gave up.


I remember once when I was messing around, testing out Google Translate for Latin, I tried putting in a 50-100 word long excerpt from Livy's Ab Urbe Condita.

The translation was: 'Believe'.

That's motivational at least.

Google Translate is good for one single thing when it comes to Latin: Taking excerpts from literature, translating them into English, translating the result back into Latin, and repeat a couple of times. The result is always hilarious.

Here are the first seven lines of Lucan's epic poem Pharsalia in English, having gone through the process:

'Over in the field of civil war

Or the stronger turn aside,

neither to the right hand of the victor in the womb:

Compared with pressure blows up

He is expected common wrong signal

matched eagles and a signal of the ball is impressive.'


Google Translate Sings is a YouTube channel that makes music (and other videos) doing just that. The results are hysterical; I definitely recommend a watch.

Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.


google translate is bad - you cannot use it - i never dare to use it


As others have said, it is notoriously bad with Latin.

My students like to type our passages in, translate them to English, back to Latin, and then to English again. The results are hilarious.

EDIT: Here is what I just typed passed into Latin and then English again.

"Some like it is a bad sign for the noble language.

It is like a type of our secret sins in the following places: my students, to translate them English, to the Latin, but had to Latin again. The result is hilarious."


I have used Google translate before. It is not very good with some languages, like Mongolian. It does not translate that well. I'm kinda dissapointed in Google translate. I figured it was better than that.


It's dodgy even in languages it's much better at, especially since it seems largely blind to context. When I ask it to translate "Hey, cat, no cats on the table!" into Spanish, it gives "¡Oye, gato, no hay gatos en la mesa!" -- that is, it thinks I'm saying there are no cats on the table, rather than telling the cat to get off the table.


Google Translate (and automatic translation in general) used to be very bad for almost every language. Many of the commonly spoken languages seem to have had some improvements over recent years, presumably due to feedback from native speakers of those languages. Latin probably hasn't gone through anywhere near the rigorous improvement process that Spanish has, for instance, and I think that's probably true for many of the less widely spoken languages as well as for "dead" languages like Latin.

I don't use Google translate enough to know how much this has been improved, but Google Translate also tends to be worse for language pairs that have less grammatical similarity. I remember it always used to be terrible for Japanese<>English (two languages that are very grammatically dissimilar). It might have issues with Latin due to the Latin case system (absent in English) on top of the issues I mentioned above.


Google Translate is generally fine nowadays for any language used within the EU, because it's so often used by bureaucrats. For Russian it's generally OK now too.

If you're in doubt, try individual words and then re-enter them on Wiktionary. But for anything else I wouldn't bother, especially Latin.


Google Translate is practically worthless for Latin, it seems most of the data was taken directly from Loeb Classical Library translations. So if you direct copy-paste a whole passage you'll get quite a fluent rendering, but if you try a simple sentence like 'John's dog killed a mouse yesterday morning' it will be a complete butchering.

My personal recommendation is too use Wiktionary if you want to check word meanings online. It also provides etymologies, declension-tables and examples of modern descendents for most Latin words.


I've never had a passage come out even remotely comprehensible :D


Except the Lord of hosts had left us seed, we had been as Sodom, and we should have been like to Gomorrha. via GoogleTranslate gives

Nisi Dominus exercituum reliquisset nobis semen, quasi Sodoma fuissemus, et quasi Gomorrha similes essemus.

Seems pretty good to me? Better than my Latin anyway.


This applies to Latin only .... With Latin the results are always wrong and for the most part not even close.


Yes, I have tried latin. It never comes out right.


Google Translate. The service that once translated "E Pluribus Unum" (the ubiquitous "out of many, one") as "grape".

I don't trust Google Translate. The most I use it for is demonstrating translation fails - as you've noted, its Latin feature is particularly well-suited for giving pretty nonsensical translations.

Once I had a Latin classmate start writing something in Latin on a whiteboard. It was complete nonsense. When I asked her about it, she simply shrugged and said it was from Google Translate.
It was a section of Les Misérables. Put through Google Translate. I couldn't even tell what it was supposed to be. I simply re-translated it for her so it would at least be understandable.

Long story short: don't use Google Translate for anything pertaining to Latin. Unless you're looking for laughs, that is.

Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.


One more for the laughs, and then I'm done:

English: "it's a trap"

Latin: "suus 'a captionem"

Yes, there is an apostrophe in the translation. And the translation becomes completely different if you change the lowercase "i" in "it's" to an uppercase "I".

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