Kelvinwright's Blog

postmodern thoughts

Happy Birthday Google Translate

Here’s the deal: you have just got off the plane at a foreign destination, checked in to your hotel, you arrive to the restaurant, open the menu, and it’s all in a foreign language that you do not speak. You can either open up a chunky dictionary, and scan through until you find out the local translation of “chicken”, “vegetarian”, or “bangers and mash”, or you can break out your iPhone, go to Google translate, and search much quicker (and without the need of bringing the dictionary with you).


Google translate, the online translation that many (if not most) of us have used at some point, is celebrating its eighth Birthday. According to the company’s own blog

(, here are some stats:


-Google Translate has more than 200 million monthly active users on

-More than 92 percent of their traffic comes from outside the USA, showing its global reach.

-Google’s service translates (more or less) as much text as that contained in one million books! Or as the company explains: what all the professional human translators in the world produce in a year, their system translates in a single day.

-The service is available in 80 languages, and working on new ones.


I remember a customer service manager who seriously considered using an online translation service to answer customer queries (reducing native speakers). Google translate, by the company’s own admission, is not for such “mission-critical translations”. Right now, in 2014, nothing quite beats a human being, a native speaker, to deliver a report, a web page, a business presentation, or an answer to a customer. However, if we are looking for help with our language studies for a word we cannot remember, if we are lost in Moscow, or Paris, Austria, or Basel, and we need a helping hand, raise a glass of local wine or beer for the folks who gave us Google translate (in the local language naturally).



May 1, 2014 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , ,

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