Google Translate continues to astound, amaze, and frustrate.
Google Translate allows anyone, no matter their skill level, to do basic translation work and serves as the backend to a host of free tools that make it very convenient for people to get translations done, no matter whether they speak another language or not. For this, I salute Google.
On the other hand, even with these new features Google Translate should never be used for any kind of professional of mission-critical translation. The results of complex passages fed into Google Translate are impressive when you know they’re automated, but not so impressive when you actually review them with a professional eye.
Still, right now I am in the love phase of my bipolar relationship with Google Translate, because of the new features they’ve recently unveiled. Google is famous for leaving all of its offerings in Beta forever, tinkering and adjusting and never calling them ‘finished’. So I’ve come to expect these sudden bursts of new features in their products. These are particularly exciting for a Word Nerd like myself!
The most exciting new feature for me is the ability to generate reverse translations. This simply means you can take a translation already generated and feed it back to Google and see if the sense of your text has been maintained. It also shows you other options for specific words, so you can choose a specific verb or noun that is closer to your actual meaning. Of course, if you hired an experienced human translator in the first place you wouldn’t have to worry about this, but for quick, casual translations it’s a great tool.
Google Translate now also gives you data on whether an offered translation is common, uncommon, or rare, which can be a huge help when you’re trying to communicate in an unfamiliar language. Technically correct translations may not actually get your point across if they are so uncommon that people don’t understand what you’re trying to say.
Synonyms is a godsend, if you ask me. If you’re not terribly familiar with a language you end up using the same words and phrases all the time. This gets the job done, yes, but your speech will be very dull; I personally get bored using the same words over and over again. Having synonyms automatically offered is an amazing utility that I’m glad to have.
So, Google Translate continues to amaze and improve, but the days when our Robot Overlords are doing all the translation work are still safely far off. While a human will always give you a superior translation, sometimes you just need to know quickly, and for that Google Translate is amazing.