I’m just going to come out and say it: google translate is not very good. Or to be more specific, it’s not very good for general translations of entire webpages or sentences. But like all tools, it really helps to know how to use them effectively.
I find it helps to think of google translate as an aid, rather than a magic translation device. There are many things that it doesn’t take into account, such as context, audience and of course the actual languages themselves.
The best way that I’ve found to use google translate is to try and read as much as you can of the target language without translating at all, and then use google translate for a single word that you don’t understand.
If it wasn’t for google translate’s questionable accuracy, I don’t think I’d ever really have made the effort to learn languages like I do today. I was completely monolingual until my late twenties, and when I made friends with Thai students who were studying in the UK, I was very curious by the Thai script they were writing to each other on facebook.
I guess at that time I thought it would be impossible for me to actually speak Thai, but somehow I thought that being able to read the language would be a lot easier(!).
It’s still strange that when I write a Thai facebook comment or status and I then go to check what I’ve written using google translate… only for google translate to spit out some garbage text which I know is not at all correct! That’s how I know I’m writing ‘like a Thai’ 🙂