Google Translate

In collaboration with the Language Council of Sweden and financed by the Swedish Internet Fund .SE Funka has examined what happens when municipalities and Government Agencies choose to integrate Google Translate into their websites. The results are unanimous; Google translate is not good enough to be offered in the manner that they are today.

The result

The surveys main focus has been on how Google Translate is perceived when the service is presented in the same interface as the main website.

Funka tested: 

  • How credibility and sender is perceived by the end users
  • How understandable the automatically generated translation become
  • How the quality differs from a manually translated text
  • If there is anything that can be done to increase the quality of the automatically generated translation

Our user tests show that about 30 % of the users believe in the accuracy of the automatically generated text when it is integrated in the interface and that the owners of the website are behind it. In spite of the fact that the quality of the text at times is very low.

The test regarding understandability highlights a clear discrepancy between a text translated by an authorized translator and a text translated with Google Translate. The differences are lessened with a text that is well worked, analyzed and checked indicating that it might be more cost efficient to work with the original text rather than letting authorized translators translate them.

The test participants understood as much of the ”understandable” text translated by Google Translate as they did with the original text translated by an authorized translator. This indicates that the original text in itself is too hard to understand in order for the visitors to render themselves the content.

The test regarding language quality proved – as expected – that there is a clear difference between a text translated by an authorized translator and a text translated by Google Translate.

The test regarding language quality when the Swedish text first was translated to English by an authorized translator followed by an automatic translation by Google Translate into Finnish as well as Arabic did not point towards any clear improvement in quality.

Funka Recommends:

Funka’s recommendation is to not include automatically generated translation tools to websites. It is something else entirely when visitors chooses to use them and by “cut and paste” transfer texts into another interface. In that process the visitor is made aware that a translation is being generated and that errors may occur.

With that in mind it might be a good idea to link to Google Translate on a page regarding the actual site or something similar. Then the visitors are made aware that they themself can make a translation if they feel inclined to do so. In order to make the visitor aware that the tool is not part of the main website it is important that the link is opened in a new window.

As a first step in the translation process Funka recommends that the original text is checked, analyzed and improved before publishing. If the quality of the original text is difficult to understand the translation will be so too; regardless of the quality of the translation.

Our previous surveys regarding understandability clearly indicate that different target audiences benefit from straight forward and understandable texts, often combined with sound, images and/or moving images. The parts of the same target audiences who are in need of translation would be able to understand a less complicated text accompanied by illustrations and explanations. To improve the original texts in accordance with our concept Understandable information for Society is a cost efficient way of reaching as many as possible.

Funka’s recommendation is to not translate important information using Google Translate. The risk of errors is simply too great.

Funka cannot recommend using a good text published in English and letting the users translating it using Google Translate into their preferred language.