insights

How does Google Translate work, and how accurate is it?

In this post, we'll explore how Google Translate works and how accurate it is. We'll also discuss some of the challenges of machine translation.


Whether you’re traveling to a country where you don’t speak the language or trying to communicate with someone who doesn’t speak yours, Google Translate can be a lifesaver. But how does it work? And how accurate is it?

What is Google Translate, and what does it do?

Google Translate is a free machine translation service from Google that instantly translates text between more than 130 languages. You can also check which languages are supported on the Google Translate language comparison page.

Google Translate has come a long way since its inception in April 2006. The service has become more accurate and can handle a wider range of languages. It is now used by millions of people all over the world.

While Google Translate started with just translating text, it nowadays also supports translating photos, live videos, or audio recordings. This makes Google Translate a powerful tool for language learning as well.

How does Google Translate work?

At its core, Google Translate is based on a huge database of translations between different languages. These translations are created by human translators and by artificial intelligence.

When you use Google Translate to translate a piece of text, the service looks for the translation that already exists in its database. If it can find an exact match, it will use that translation. If it can't find an exact match, it will try to find a similar translation.

If it still can't find a suitable translation, it will try to create one using artificial intelligence. This is done by looking at other translations in the database and by using language processing algorithms. This process is called "neural machine translation" (NMT) and we have written more about it, in an earlier blog post.

Once Google Translate has found or created a translation, it will show you the result. You can then edit the translation if you want to.

artistic image of robot in libraryImage: Like a robot in a library, Google Translate searches for the right translations for you.

How accurate is Google Translate?

The accuracy of Google Translate depends on several factors, including the quality of the source text and the languages involved. In general, Google Translate is quite accurate. However, it is not perfect and there will always be some errors.

The accuracy of the translation also varies greatly between different language pairs. For some languages, such as Spanish the accuracy is around 90%, while for others such as Armenian, it can be as low as 55%. This is the result of a recent study.

If you need a perfect translation, you should always use a professional human translator. This is especially important when you deal with life-critical situations such as medical or legal documents.

What are some of the benefits of using Google Translate?

There are many benefits of using Google Translate. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • It's free: You don't need to pay anything to use Google Translate. This makes it a great tool for those on a tight budget.
  • It's fast: You can translate a piece of text in just a few seconds. This is very useful if you need a quick translation.
  • It's available anywhere: You can access Google Translate on any device with an internet connection. This makes it very convenient to use.
  • It supports many languages: as mentioned before, Google Translate supports more than 130 languages. This makes it one of the most comprehensive translation services available.
  • It's constantly improving: Google Translate is constantly being updated with new features and improvements. This means that the service will only get better over time.

What are some of the drawbacks of using Google Translate?

There are also some drawbacks to using Google Translate. Here are some of the most important ones:

  • It's not perfect: As mentioned before, Google Translate is not perfect and there will always be some errors in the translations. If you need a perfect translation, you should always use a professional human translator.
  • It doesn't support all languages equally: Some languages are better supported than others. This means that the accuracy of the translations can vary greatly between different language pairs.
  • It can be expensive: If you are translating data for a company you are required to sign up for one of the paid options which can be quite expensive.

That said, Google Translate is a good solution if you need a quick and free translation. It is also a great tool for language learning thanks to its support for audio and video translations.

How to use Google Translate?

Using Google Translate is as easy as pie but depending on your platform there are different ways to access it. We have compiled tutorials for the most common platforms below.

Using Google Translate in a web browser

  1. Go to Google Translate (translate.google.com).
  2. Enter the text you want to translate in the box on the left side of the page and select your source language at the top.
  3. Select your target language from the drop-down menu on the right side of the source text box, or click one of the flags above it to choose a translation direction.
  4. To hear how to pronounce a word or phrase, click Speak. You can also hover over the Play icon next to many phrases for an audio preview (not available for all languages).

Screenshot of Google Translate interface in 2022 - a text is being translated from English to SpanishImage: Google Translate interface on web translating a sentence from English to Spanish.

Using Google Translate on a mobile phone

  1. Open the Translate app. You can download it for free from Google Play or the App Store.
  2. Choose your languages. Tap either to choose your source language or to choose your target language, then select a specific dialect if available.
  3. Enter text. Tap the microphone to enter text with your voice, or tap the keyboard icon to type it out yourself.
  4. Tap Translate. It's a blue button at the bottom of your screen.
  5. To hear the translation out loud, tap the "Play" button.

 

Screenshot of Google Translate interface in 2022 on iOS - a text is being translated from English to Spanish

Image: Screenshot of Google Translate on iOS app

Tips for getting the most out of Google Translate

These are a few tricks that we have discovered that make using Google Translate even more useful. Make sure to keep them in mind whenever you use Google Translate or a similar service!

Tip 1: Use simple language

When you use Google Translate, it is important to use simple and clear language. This will help ensure that your translations are more accurate. Avoid using slang or idiomatic expressions as these can often be misinterpreted.

Tip 2: Always proofread your translations

It is also important to proofread your translations before relying on them too much. This way you can catch any errors and make sure that the meaning of your text is conveyed accurately.

Tip 3: Use multiple translation services

When translating important text, it is always a good idea to use multiple translation services. This way you can compare the results and get a more accurate translation.

Tip 4: Focus on context

Keep in mind that the context of your text can also affect the accuracy of the translation. If possible, try to provide some context for your text to help Google Translate understand it better. (e.g. for the English word "turkey", does it refer to the country or the bird?)

Tip 5: Know your limitations

Remember that machine translation is not perfect and there will always be some errors. If you need a perfect translation, you should always use a professional human translator.

Should you translate your website using Google Translate?

Website translation is a complex task that requires a high level of accuracy and precision. This is why it is generally not recommended to use Google Translate for website translation. While Google Translate can be helpful in some cases, it often produces translations that are inaccurate and difficult to understand.

If you need your website translated into another language, it is best to use a professional human translator or a machine translation service that supports editing such as Dilingual. These services will produce better results than Google Translate, ensuring that your website's meaning is conveyed accurately to your audience.

If you are thinking about translating your website, you should give our software a try. It is free, so what do you have to lose?

Similar posts

Get notified about new blog posts

Subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date on the latest translation insights and news.