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How Accurate is Google Translate When it Comes to Translating English to Spanish?

Updated: Jul 21

We tested the google translate online tool against a professional English to Spanish translation team to find out…


Google Translate, like any tools, has its uses and benefits along with its downsides and blindspots. When using Google Translate for a single word or simple phrase, especially when it’s for your own personal use, it typically does the job just fine. You can probably figure out what your child’s Spanish homework is saying or how to translate your favorite song lyrics for fun.


But when it comes to translating for professional and public use, relying on Google Translate could leave you looking foolish, giving wrong information, and very likely miscommunicating your message. Language is complex, and especially if you are using what you translate in the business world, you’re going to want to hire professional translators who can not only translate word-by-word, like a mathematical “sub A for B” equation, but who can capture your tone, voice, and subtle nuances in the written product. While Google translations can often be understood, they are still very stiff, literal, and sound unnatural. So especially when you are marketing to or working with a Spanish audience, you want your translations to read fluently.


You don’t have to just take our word for it, though. We’ve taken 10 English sentences and put them into Google Translate to see how they stack up when compared to our professional translation team’s work.


Example 1: The women say they were forced to have their labor induced, despite wanting to have a spontaneous birth.


Google Translate:

Las mujeres dicen que fueron forzadas a que les indujeran el parto, a pesar de querer tener un parto espontáneo.

Professional Translation:

Las mujeres dicen que fueron forzadas a que les indujeran el parto, a pesar de querer tener un parto natural.


Example 2: Don’t sweat the small stuff.


Google Translate:

No te preocupes por las cosas pequeñas.

Professional Translation:

No te ahogues en un vaso de agua.

Example 3: My values govern how I treat others.


Google Translate:

Mis valores gobiernan como trato a los demás.

Professional Translation:

Mis valores rigen cómo trato a los demás.


Example 4: He has a full head of hair.


Google:

Tiene una cabeza llena de cabello

Professional Translation:

Tiene una cabellera frondosa



Example 5: He carries himself well.


Google:

Él se porta bien.

Professional Translation:

Tiene porte.


Example 6: I am just within a short plane ride (within a 1–3-hour plane ride).


Google:

Estoy a un corto viaje en avión (dentro de un viaje en avión de 1 a 3 horas)

Professional Translation:

Estoy solo a un vuelo corto de distancia (entre 1 y 3 horas)


Example 7: I rely on my family for favors like car rides or grocery shopping.

Google:

Confío en mi familia para favores como paseos en automóvil o compras de comestibles.


Professional Translation:

Me apoyo en mi familia para que me hagan favores como darme «aventones» o comprar comestibles.


Example 8: What is your current living situation?

Google: ¿Cuál es su situación de vida actual?

Professional Translation: ¿Con quién y dónde vives actualmente?


Example 9: The patient will go home via medical transport if not ambulatory.

Google:

El paciente se irá a casa en transporte médico si no es ambulatorio.

Professional Translation:

El paciente volverá a su hogar en transporte médico si no puede caminar



Example 10: A financial conflict of interest with the study sponsor has been identified for a member of the research team.

Google: Se identificó un conflicto de interés financiero con el patrocinador del estudio para un miembro del equipo de investigación


Professional Translation: Se identificó un conflicto financiero de intereses entre el patrocinador del estudio y un miembro del equipo de investigación



While the translations are mostly legible, they sound clunky and unnatural. Google Translate gets within the range of being understandable, but it is obvious it’s not capturing the full nuance and meaning behind the original language in the translation. This becomes even more obvious and problematic when using language that is idiomatic, current slang or phrases, or persuasive language seen in marketing and business writing.

Google Translate might do an OK job, but it’s best to use it as a personal tool rather than a professional one for end-products. That is where Language Concepts can help. Getting professional translation of your work is more affordable than you might think, and it will benefit your business for years to come to establish reliable, local-sounding messaging rather than cobbled together human-less outputs.


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