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How Does Google Translate Work?

How Does Google Translate Work?
How Does Google Translate Work?

Written by Henry Mcdowell, follow him on Twitter.

Google Translate is the most popular translation program on the web since its release back in 2006. It’s fast, simple, and most importantly of all, it's free. However, just like other translation machine programs, it does have its flaws when it comes to translating text from one language to another.

Google Translate can translate over 100 languages, but an estimate of the total languages spoken in the world is around the mark of 7,000. So, a lot of languages are not being supported by automatic translations. This means that not all languages have the opportunity to be machine translated in the blink of an eye.

How a Translation Machine Works

Luckily, in 2016, Google revamped their system to improve their translations. Before, it was based on statistics and would look for patterns in documents that humans have already translated. This means that the system would find certain phrases and translations and then select the one it thought fits the best. This is at least a huge upgrade from the original machine translations that use to just pull word for word.

With the newer model, Google translates through a Recurrent Neural Networks or the RNN.

The RNN performs its search of words by looking for sequences including phrases that have previously been translated through human translations. This helps translate entire sentences instead of word for word, making the translations sound more human-like.

In the long run, the machine translation will end up sounding less choppy and more realistic.

Read also: Why is it better to hire the best game localization services with human translation?

Where Google Translate Falls Short

Automatic translations do fall short in some categories, making their work sound poorly translated and sometimes making no sense at all. Listed below are some areas where Google Translate would need some improvement:

  • Grammatical Errors

Google Translate can fall short when it comes to grammar. However, Google is aware and is slowly trying to improve its systems.

As stated above, Google does not use word to word translation. Instead, it uses the keying of phrases together to weave together its translation. However, this affects the grammar within the translated text.

Google has no set “rules” when it comes to correcting grammar mistakes in translation, therefore making this a huge issue for people who want to rely on it.

  • Lack of Punctuation

The same can be said for punctuation. Google Translate will not check if the punctuation is right or wrong. It just wants to get the phrases translated to be understandable.

This makes Google Translate good for translations when you’re trying to understand a certain piece of text, but bad if you’re thinking of relying on it for the translation of documents, texts, books, articles, etc.

  • Tone of Writing

Written pieces of work attempt to keep a consistent tone throughout the text. The issue with translation is that the tone is often lacking in some areas or ends up completely being lost. This drives the quality of written work down the drain.

The last thing you want when translating a text is for it to completely miss its mark for its intended audience. Translation machines just don’t have this function and won’t have it for a very long time.

Useful info: Why you should order Korean translation services from experts in the industry?


While Google Translate has come a long way since its release back in 2006, it is still a growing program. Translation machines don’t know all of the writing “rules” for each individual language. So, no time soon will we be seeing any automatic translation being just as good as its human translation services.

But the technology is improving, and maybe one day, we will be able to rely on it just as much as on human translation. In case you’re looking for a professional human translator, TranslationReport has prepared the best translation reviews list to help you with the choice.