China's languages, mainly Mandarin and Cantonese, are becoming ever more important on the world stage, and Chinese nationals are appearing in more interactions in the West and elsewhere. Exchange students, investors, and even movie producers are increasingly coming from China. The need to communicate effectively with them is more important than ever.
Simultaneously, in almost any multilingual situation, whether travelling, conducting business, or simply having a conversation, Google translate is likely to make an appearance. Just as Google has become the default search engine for online queries, Google Translate has become the default method for quickly deciphering a phrase. However, the viability of Google Translate can be extremely limited outside of casual circumstances and can have real difficulties with specific language pairs.
So how does Google Translate stack up when it comes to the languages of China? Can you use the Google language translator for business needs? For Academic purposes? Or should you still stick to real translators when dealing with Chinese languages like Mandarin?
In this article, we are going to look at five reasons why Google Translate may not be your best choice for Chinese languages currently.
How Google Translate Works
First, to understand why Google may be better at some languages than others, we need to understand what is going on behind the scenes.
Generally, Google Translate utilizes word pairs between the two languages as a base structure to offer a translation. One word can often have multiple pairs in a language, and without context, it can be impossible for this method to provide an entirely accurate translation. Usually, without a human translator's help, there will be very clear and obvious errors, even in common language pairs with a lot of data to pull from. Spanish to English for example, will generally be fairly accurate but still typically falls short once context and nuance come into play -many other language pairs, like English to Chinese, have much less data to use and is thus much less accurate.
Even with the advanced neural learning networks Google has begun to utilize in their translation application, these common mistakes still arise. The problem is still even larger for less common word pairings like using Google Translate Spanish to Chinese results.
5 Reasons You Shouldn't Use Google Translate for Chinese Languages
1. Google Translate is Still Too Inaccurate When it Really Matters
San Francisco General Hospital conducted a translation test of the 100 most common discharge instructions for medical patients and found that Google translate made mistakes on 2% of the Spanish instructions and 8% for those in Mandarin Chinese. These Google Translate statistics were used to put a positive spin on the project, but when you consider the millions of hospital admissions each year, the number of mistakes becomes significant.
Even small translation mistakes in the medical field can lead to some dramatic errors. One terrible event occurred in Germany in 2006-2007 when 47 knee replacement surgeries failed due to a mistranslation of the prosthesis type.
This is why organizations like The Spanish Group offer specialized medical translation and interpretation services.
2. Western Languages Do Not Easily Conform to Chinese Languages
Nuance and culture play a large role in the meaning behind phrases and terms in languages, such as cliches and idioms, and they primarily do not make sense outside of their natural context. AI translation for Mandarin has proven to have great difficulty even bringing over simple phrases with the accuracy required for anything more than a casual conversation. Academic efforts to look into the issue have found that Machine translation is still only really viable for understanding the “gist” of what is being said, and that training more competent translators in Chinese dialects is the only viable solution for the time being.
This issue is partially responsible for more widespread adoption of a phenomenon referred to as “Chinglish,” where Chinese establishments or people will use names and terms more easily understood and repeated by Western tongues.
3. Privacy Is a Real Issue With Tools Like Google Translate
While Google Translate is free, in many ways, you are truly paying with your privacy. According to the terms of service for the page last year: "When you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones."
And while this has recently been updated to clarify they won't have intellectual property rights, only that you do not have privacy rights, I wouldn't be trying to translate your award-winning recipes on Google Translate anytime soon.
4. You Will Likely Have the Wrong Dialect
Sales revolve around speaking to your audience in a way that resonates and makes them feel comfortable with you. Countless Western businesses have failed in China for not properly taking into account regional customs, a part of which is the local dialect. Depending on who you ask there are between three and seven major dialects in China, most notably Mandarin and Cantonese, as well as countless local phrases and figures of speech.
The government of China only announced Mandarin as the national language for the mainland in 2001, and while the language is advantageous in Beijing, as you get farther away from the capital, it becomes much more challenging to communicate with.
Google Translate is far from able to match these regional needs in the same way a well-chosen professional translator could. English to Chinese Google Translate results cannot speak to a certain sub-section of the population past choosing Mandarin, Cantonese, etc.
Google translate accents for Mandarin are currently limited to Putonghua or 'Standard Mandarin.'
5. You Can’t Do Transcreation
Translation can often be more of an art than hard science. Language rarely conforms cleanly, as we have gone over in this article, and translators often need to massage and manage terms and cliches to ensure the reader will be able to make sense of both the meaning and the intention of the phrase. This artform, for lack of a better term, is referred to as Transcreation.
To accomplish Transcreation, you need exceptional language skills and a thorough knowledge of the audience.
Advertising is perhaps the place where you see Transcreation needed most often. As stated earlier, sales revolve around making a connection with the consumer, and a good tagline is rarely a grammatically proper phrase. "Got Milk?" isn't even proper English, but "Do you have milk?" just doesn't ring the same. Google Translate will take everything literally, to the best of its ability. With Transcreation, you can tweak your phrasing to make it work with local audiences who wouldn't understand the core message otherwise.
Ensure You Can Communicate With Confidence
Chinese languages are becoming ever more prominent globally as the country industrializes and Chinese businesses and tourists become a more common sight. Every day, more western countries are trying to enter the massive Chinese market. However, the Chinese market can be very prohibitive to those viewed as an outsider. Luckily, The Spanish Group delivers more than accurate Spanish translator services. In fact, The Spanish Group offers over ninety languages, including Chinese language translation work, easily and quickly. The Spanish Group uses only the best translators with proven results and can provide translations tailored to the exact region you are speaking. If you need any form of language services, don't hesitate to contact them today.