Trouble with Google Translate


My previous post I shared the work a child had done in my class translating a poem he had created with a partner using google translate. I asked the child to take his poem home to share with his parents and ask them to comment on his work. What I got back instead was the poem re-corrected. It would appear google translate had gotten it SO wrong. The boy did not mind that his work was rewritten, in fact he was happy that his parents had supported him.

It would appear one should not rely solely on google translate to translate.


I wonder if I had asked the boy to write by hand his poem from English to Japanese would he have made the same errors, or was he himself relying solely on google translate as he could not understand the English words to notice the errors. Maybe he was not strong in his mother tongue to notice these errors. He copied and pasted the typed up work sentence by sentence into google translate.

It is interesting to see how many errors we had made when it was translated into Japanese.

I recently read this post by Paula and the link below.

In this post was a link ¬†–¬†Encouraging the use of online translation such as Britannica, Google Translate etc.

I also spoke to my TA about the use of google translate and how we use it often in the class to translate English to Khmer. He politely pointed out that often google translate does not translate well to Khmer. That children often have written it wrong. ¬†Some of our children were writing the words in Khmer wrong relying solely on what google translate was telling them. I wonder if some of them were not confident in reading or understanding this in their mother tongue in the first place. My TA pointed out that it was not the children’s fault but google translate. That it is very important to remember that if we are getting the children to translate into Khmer and then display it, that we check it is correct with one of the TA’s. If not then they will also be reading it wrong. Google translate has told them what to say but it may be wrong. (not always)

I have seen this when we read some Khmer books where the translation from Khmer to English is lost in translation. Not the authors fault I am sure.14717195_10154692936279175_5291542596373226262_n

So what have I learnt from this experience.

Simply, that we should not solely trust google translate 100%. Use it by all means, but where possible find an expert to check your work. I never checked my child’s writing against google translate or even asked another Japanese child to check. I relied on the good will of google translate and that the boy had done it correctly. He knew what he was doing.

I wonder what the parents of this child thought of me when they saw what their child had written so wrongly. I just presumed it was right. He didn’t think he was wrong, but he was also not confident enough to read what he had written in Japanese back to me.

Lesson learnt.

2 thoughts on “Trouble with Google Translate”

  1. Actually the link ‘google translate’ takes you to my blogpost which is actually also called ‘the problem with google translate’ where I talk about some similar problems. Mainly that students don’t know the word/concept in their mother tongue so don’t know the correct translation to choose.

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