Google’s New Translator Toolkit
Google recently released an update to the Google Translator Toolkit, with claims to make developers lives much easier when localizing mobile apps. The new and improved Google Translator Toolkit now allows several new formats to be uploaded to the editor for an instant “localization” of a mobile or software app. The translations are cleaner and more accurate than Google Translate, and the Toolkit includes several bells and whistles like crowd-sourcing and translation memory resources.
Localization Services – or PR Tactics?
When these types of tools become popular, or another business trend headlines again and again, I am bound to be annoyed by the all-too-common marketing tactics used by online translation companies that latch onto current news or industry buzzwords (like “Google Translator Toolkit) and slap it into a generic headline for the sake of a flimsy press release or hits from user searches. And true to my prediction, no sooner had Google released their Toolkit update, than several online translation companies were already clustering around the spotlight, with press releases like, “Google Translator Toolkit Now Integrated Into [insert LSP company here] – or – “[Some blah-zay translation service] Now Compatible with Google Translator Toolkit.”
You can also observe this exact tactic when the same companies proclaim “increased demands for their services” as a direct result of whatever business trend is on the rise. The medical device industry is experiencing a huge rise in sales? Guess what, The XYZ Group also had a rise in medical devices translations! IT engineers are being heavily recruited from Lithuania and Switzerland? Well, XYZ shockingly also had a huge rise in demands for IT translations and for Dutch and Lithuanian translation. Gag me with a transparent spoon.
It is certainly true that the Google Translator Toolkit is a big improvement upon the regular Google Translate API, which, at best, is mostly useful for translating very (very, very) short and/or simple pieces of text, or hopefully, getting the gist of a few paragraphs written in a foreign language. The new toolkit editor shows the source and the target language texts side by side, and offers tools for correcting the rough edges, grammatical inaccuracies, and improper sentence structures. Ok, awesome. This could very well be a useful tool for individual or freelance translators, if they don’t already use something more sophisticated and advanced, like Trados or SDL Trados, or TM (translation memory) software filled with years and years worth of translated phrases, vocabulary and texts. But for a “professional” translation service to announce the addition of Google Translator Toolkit to its entourage of resources? Whether it is true or not – shame on them for using cheap publicity stunts by riding on the curtails of a temporary buzzword. A translation service that accepts or uses translations from the Google Translator Toolkit – is no more news than it is for a translation service to announce they now use CAT software – which is much more efficient, as far as translation service tools are concerned.
So What’s the Big Deal?
The point here is not to say that the Google Translator Toolkit sucks. In all honesty, it doesn’t suck at all – it’s pretty impressive how much more accurate it is than the basic Google Translate, which, I have said many, many, many times – should never ever be used as a stand-alone tool for web page translation, or even anything more than a couple of sentences. The result is a bunch of gobbledy-gook, and e-commerce merchants who rely on Google Translate to sell to international markets – are clueless.
The same idea applies to a professional translation company that relies upon Google Translator Toolkit. It is ok as a starting point for a developer, who then takes the translation output to a professional translator and says, “Can you polish this up for me?” The translator may or may not charge less for such a service. But a professional translation company localizing a software app or mobile app for a business, on a professional business or corporate level – better not hope to win anyone over by using the Translator Toolkit to get the job done. Localization goes far beyond uploading a text and proofreading for grammatical errors. Localization requires cultural and contextual translations, imagery and user interface changes, creative content translation (aka “transcreation”) humor translations, and many other things that even this new and improved Toolkit cannot do. While technology may continue to improve upon automated translation technology, voice-activated translation tools and mobile voice translators – none of these can truly localize a mobile or software app. Professional localization requires an in-depth process that requires several different, equally in-depth specialized skills, and depending upon the size of the software, video game, etc – can take months to complete.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. These are some comments and replies by readers and writers of articles concerning the Google Translator Toolkit.
“Machine Translation Is Never Enough – Each time that I have written about translation, I have been emphatic about my belief that professional translation requires a professional translator. I think it is acceptable to use machine translation for short phrases, like navigation labels, but for product descriptions, legal text, policies, and checkout, you should use a translation service.” ~ Armando Roggio, The PeC Review. http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/1588-The-PeC-Review-Google-s-Translator-Toolkit
April 1, 2012 at 9:10 – “Why do you say that Google Translator is excellent? It’s translations of English to Thai are mostly garbage unless it’s the simplest of phrases or terms.” ~ Tom Aikins, blog commentor to: http://www.webpronews.com/google-translator-toolkit-makes-app-localization-easier-2012-03
“Now, we know Google Translate often provides some hilarious responses, and the limitation to translate your stored list of resource strings means a more limited implementation..” ~ Rhaveesh Bhalla. “Google Releases Translator Toolkit App for Developers Looking to Localize Apps,” Phandroid.com. http://phandroid.com/2012/03/31/google-releases-translator-toolkit-for-developers-looking-to-localize-apps/
So – What’s the Final Judgment, Then?
The Google Translator Toolkit is a great tool for a lot of developers to give them an idea or starting point for translating application text, or in some cases, trimming off some of the cost of professional app localization. However, it is not something a professional online translation company should be touting as a newsworthy resource or utility. That should be reserved for true translation company innovators who work hard at developing their own translation software, and who often make breakthroughs insofar as translation project management software, crowd-sourcing and translation memory software, and localization tools. Companies who invest time and money into creating their own translation software and tools deserve to be acknowledged with a published article about their accomplishments. But online LSPs that latch onto every translation industry buzzword for a bit of free advertising in a “news” article, or proclaim a free Google tool – that anyone can use whenever they want – is now part of their entourage of “resources,” – only create implications about resorting to publicity tactics rather than focusing upon the caliber of their services.