Google Translation Tools - Google's Most Useful Translation Tool Wasn't Made for Translating

First posted: Aug 18, 2009
Last updated: Nov 30, 2017

I recently took a look at Google's "translator toolkit." This is their translation memory tool made for translators. The idea is that many translators will contribute and share many many many translations thus making it easier for the translators to do their jobs while improving Google's translation tools at the same time.


I think this is an exciting idea, the interface is easy to use and it has a lot of potential, but as a Chinese-to-English translator, I won't be using it yet as it currently doesn't allow for Chinese to be used as the source language. There is Chinese-to-English translation available with the regular "Google Translate" though, so it seems reasonable that it will be available for the toolkit soon as well.

Unfortunately, the Chinese-to-English translations that are produced by Google Translate are, to put it lightly, bad. That is, as a professional translator, it would be a lot easier and more accurate for me to just translate it myself than it would be for me to edit the English text produced by Google Translate. So what does that mean for the translations that will be contributed? It probably means that the people using this tool will be people that rely on machine translation themselves - the best translators aren't going to need it so they won't be contributing.

I looked into the sharing options and I think it is excellent that Google allows users to refrain from sharing their translation memories with everybody. So, for example, you could share the translation memory only with those people that are given access. This is essential for material that should not yet be released to the public. However, since the data is still stored with Google, I know some translation agencies wouldn't even consider using G's translator toolkit.

An image of a halberd found by searching for the English word.

A halberd image found by searching for the Chinese word "刺斧"

These images were found by searching for "刺斧" and "halberd" on Google Images.

So, I won't be using this toolkit. However, there is one tool that Google offers to translators that most people wouldn't think of - Google Images. This is a tool that I use all the time to quickly check the meaning of specific words for physical objects. For example, I didn't know the word "刺斧" and it wasn't in the dictionary. I checked for "刺斧" on Google images and saw many images of battle axes. I then did a regular google search for "medievel weaponry axes" found a site that listed a few kinds of axe-like weapons, did an English-language search on Google Images for three of them and found that "halberd" is the best fit. I didn't know either the Chinese word or the English word, but I found a match in under a minute using Google Images. Now if somebody could create a tool that allows for even more efficient use of Google Images, perhaps in conjunction with an online Chinese-English dictionary and/or thesaurus...



Thanks for this informative post. Disappointed to know that the Google "translator's toolkit" doesn't support Chinese as a source language, but thanks very much for saving me from testing it myself to find out.

That's a very clever tip about Google Images. Maybe worth a separate entry of it's own? It sounds like the basic idea is to use Google Images as an online picture dictionary in the source language, get an idea of what the object is from the image, then google for site that talk about this sort of object in the target language, get some candidate translations based on the descriptions there, and then check these candidates in Google Images. As long as the tagging in Google Images is accurate and trustworthy, this should be a very useful technique, indeed. Another reason to make doubly sure that my labels & tags are accurate when I post images in Google Images. :-)


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