Home Google Docs Adds Translation, But It’s Not Without Flaws

Google Docs Adds Translation, But It’s Not Without Flaws

Google has now integrated its translation technology into Google Docs, allowing users to convert their documents into any one of 42 languages with the click of a button. While the official Google blog highlighted a usage case of a child translating her drawing for her family, the enterprise blog post showcases a different usage case, one for enterprises that need to translate documents for the multilingual teams that operate in a global business landscape. There’s just one problem with the tool: translations are pretty rough, and it’s not suited to any application for which quality is critical. That makes it fine for casual use, but not for Google Apps enterprise and education customers.

Dead Simple

Using the translate tool was pretty simple. Just open your document, go Tools > Translate document, and then choose your language. It’s enabled now for all users, so you can try it for yourself too.

In his Google Enterprise post, Jason Harris outlined just why this is an incremental but vital addition to Google Docs. “At Google, I often collaborate with colleagues around the world, so it’s quite common to be working with someone whose native language is different from my own.”

It’s not just Google that operates as a multilingual organization these days. While English is definitely a lingua franca for those using internationally distributed teams, there still comes a time when you might need your document translated.

Proceed with Caution

But if this translation is going to be used professionally, you might want to do so with a healthy dose of skepticism when it comes to accuracy. Our test of the translation found it was just as rough as the public version that has long been available at translate.google.com.

We translated the first paragraph of the Google article on Wikipedia from English to Chinese and then back to English. If you try this same kind of test yourself, it quickly becomes obvious that this is no replacement for a human being; a good deal of meaning was lost in the process.

We didn’t really expect this to be of mind-blowing perfection. But Google has definitely been pushing Google Apps as a suite worth spending big bucks on. To have something that unreliable included in a product they’re marketing as enterprise-grade software is not the best idea. The simplest solution would be to make clear that the Docs translation is not to be depended upon for mission-critical work, but unfortunately Google has done no such thing yet.

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