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The Strictly Spanish Blog

The Cost of Free: Google Translate and Its Impact on Your Image

3/15/2017 by Sara Leonhartsberger

Intuitive, instant, and –most favorably—free, Google Translate allures many businesses to use the digital tool instead of human translators; on the surface, it appears logical to implement a seemingly omniscient tool to avoid another expense. However, like most “free” offers one encounters, Google Translate contains hidden costs that may harm a business’s credibility, privacy, and target audience.

While its statistical learning approach (the ability to provide a translation from other translations found online) guarantees an instant translation, it does not guarantee an accurate translation like a grammatical rules approach (utilized by human translators) would. If a high-school Spanish teacher would take off points for a paper translated in Google Translate, should it truly be considered for professional use?


According to its Terms of Service, Google is allowed to use whatever text is translated in Google Translate to aid the statistical learning process of the tool. Contracts, legal documents, or patient records would not be kept private from Google’s corporation.


Although Google Translate may give the gist of a business’ message, it fails to convey that message exactly as the business desired. Would an employee handbook wish to inform their employees that they can take time off for “funeral vacations” or that their “leaves” are the same as leaves that grow on trees?


While businesses understandably wish to be prudent with their money, Google Translate is not a viable option to maintain a professional image. Inaccuracy, public access, and awkward phrasing are the major costs of “free” translations. With a professional translator, businesses will receive an accurate translation, confidentiality, and a clear message. Perhaps the next time businesses consider using “free” Google Translate, they may realize there are more costs than one may think.





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