While Google Translate has revolutionized the ability to quickly and cheaply translate online, the over dependence on this tool has led to many a blunder in the legal and business world. Yes, it is a great tool when you need a quick, cost-efficient way to translate the occasional word or phrase. However, there are certain services that are simply best performed by a person.

The problem usually arises when the piece needing translating includes a lot of idioms, lingo, or legal or financial terms that Google simply doesn’t know what to do with. In one example that I found, a blogger writes about simply trying to translate a common word for “sheet” in French, taken from IKEA’s French site, which Google translated into “murder.” If she didn’t know better, she might think IKEA is selling “murder” sheets!

One well-known blog also demonstrates how a simple web page name, “The Linguistic Fun Page,” could eventually end up being changed to the “the linguistic pagination of the diversion” in Spanish. Also, one might wonder whether some of the mistranslations here could have been prevented, had they hired a professional translator! You can see how a simple mistranslation could cause a restaurant to post, “Don’t stand there and be hungry. Come on in and get fed up.”

On a more serious note, another issue that arises with Google Translate involved confidentiality. When translations are placed into Google Translate, violations of confidentiality can occur. According to well-known translator Jost Zetsche, online translation tools should never be utilized when translating legal material. Whenever text is sent to Google, it becomes Google’s property. You can read more in Google’s Terms of Service.

So, while Google Translate may be great for when you forgot that one word and need to send out an email in another language or you just need a simple translation job, for complex legal or business translations, it is probably best to turn to real people. You definitely don’t want to end up with one of these epic translation fails: 8 Epic Translation Fails.


Leave a comment