Not a day goes by on the internet without someone bashing Google Translate for a stupid translation mistake. Memes abound and yes they are funny, at times. Articles on Google Translate fails are shared, liked and reblogged by freelance translators and LSPs alike. But is this helping the translation industry? I don’t think so.

In 2013, Google revealed that Google Translate provides a billion translations a day for 200 million users. Today, that number will only have increased.

To believe that machine translation has no use and should be ridiculed is simply wrong. Machine translation is simply here to stay. Output of machine translation, be it Google Translate or a customised engine, can be great but can also be horrible. We all know that. The same applies to human translators by the way.

Machine translation has different uses. I and millions of users use it on a daily basis. I receive a Google alert of one of our products on a Chinese website? Google Translate lets me know immediately what it’s about. It lets my parents communicate with distant relatives abroad who don’t speak Dutch. On mobile, it can be a life saver when travelling abroad. Will it replace all human translators? Not in the near future it will.

Mobile Graffiti

Now here’s the thing, we shouldn’t be laughing at Google Translate for messing up; we should be educating people who are using Google Translate for the wrong purpose.  We should also be giving machine translation praise for all the good it does. The blame always seems to lie with Google Translate, never with the people using Google Translate in the wrong situation or workflow.

It's the curse of every translation, be it provided by machine or human: it goes unnoticed when it’s perfect, it only gets noticed when it’s bad.

It’s the same with autocorrect, made fun of a thousand times but never praised for all the times it does the job correctly.

So just a piece of advice, don’t see Google Translate as a threat, no need to make fun of it. It’s time our industry started educating more.