Google Launches Paid Web Translation for Businesses


In my opinion, Google opens a new era; an era which will be full of translation mistakes. It launches its automated translation service, Translate API v1. With this service, the web pages and applications will use this translation service for free. Moreover, the European Patent Office announces that Translate API can be used for patent translations into many widely used languages. It is machine translation after all. Sometimes, even us cannot understand little culturel nuances, I wonder how an automated translation software can make all these differences. David Meyer has published a blog post about this software on He explains how it works and what the revenues are. If you are interested in the rest of the article, you can always click the link at the bottom. I will quote some parts below:

“The Google Translate API provides a programmatic interface to access Google’s latest machine translation technology,” Jeff Chin (Google Translate product manager) wrote. This API supports translations between 50+ languages (more than 2,500 language pairs) and is made possible by Google’s cloud infrastructure and large-scale machine learning algorithms.

Those using the commercial version of the API will pay $20 (£12) per million characters of text translated. Chin estimated this would mean around $0.05 per page, assuming the page contains 500 words. There is a limit of 50 million characters per month.

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16 responses to this post.

  1. I see translations in products ex at home depot totally wrong.


  2. Posted by Hazal Didem YENER on August 27, 2011 at 13:37

    “In my opinion, Google opens a new era; an era which will be full of translation mistakes.” So true!!!


  3. I’ve been asked to “edit” MT before (obviously at a much lower rate than simple translation), and I don’t understand how the technology could be ready for prime time. Sometimes it takes longer to fix MT than to simply translate outright.

    I was also asked, recently, to consult on a localization project. They wanted me to make a suggestion for a shorter translation for a string of words, so it would fit on their interface. As I did so, I got to take a look at the sentence after the one I was asked to change. It was a mess, grammar and syntax out the window. I suggested they may want to change that, too. The agency responded that the client wanted it translated that way. This is a big international company, and I really do not understand who they have looking at the results on their end. I guess they just want quick and dirty, and don’t care about the results. I wonder, though, how the end-users would react to seeing their language mangled that way (to the point that it’s hard to even understand what they are trying to convey).


  4. Hi Hazal, I completely agree with you. New era of mistakes, less work for translators; but the most incredible thing of all is that Companies don’t care about their translation quality, AND Company Image, and insist on machine translation of technical topics.


    • Posted by Hazal Didem YENER on August 29, 2011 at 20:21

      Hello Ramon,

      Business world is a selfish world full of double standards.They usually want fast results on maximum profit, and that is why most companies do not even bother to work with a translation agency, which leads to disastrous results. There is hardly anything we can do about it.


  5. What can one expect of a (world!) culture in which “bottom line” is the ultimate goal?


  6. Buying translation is like buying a car. You get what you pay for. I have no problem with this. INdia announced a new car for $2000. Do you think Mercedes is worried?
    Why should we?


  7. Posted by James on August 30, 2011 at 19:12

    The first fact to be taken into account is that Google Translate API V1 will be down as of 31 December 2011 and will be replaced by V2, which will be pay by use. Users will have to register, and if the conditions of use are similar to the present version, surrender exclusivity and confidentiality to Google which incorporates all translations done on the API into its TM. Thus translators and agencies with confidentiality agreements with clients will not be able to use it without infringing their agreements. Secondly, it will vastly increase the amount of material translated: material with short life span and low quality requirements (financial markets data for example) which is currently not translated due to lack of time and low ROI will be translated. The future for freelancers will be similar to doing a translation in a current CAT tool with a high percentage of concordance from our own local or imported TM: choose, adapt, edit or re-write, only the TM will be “in the cloud” and will be virtually universal. Trados, memoQ and Across (amongst others) already incorporate Google Translate API V1 as a search tool. This may cease in 2012 unless they can find a way of passing on the cost to users. Lastly, Google Translate is far from perfect but its by far the best to date. It is based on TMs acquired from major language service providers and other organisations, an army of wiki-workers and the incorporation of users’ translations to the database. Thus they are re-cycling human translations. The problem they have now is to weed out low-quality translations and contextualise the good ones. Since the system is based on statistical use of the translation units stored in the DB, the “good” ones should rise to the top (be offered in first place) and the ones rejected by a statistically significant number of users be deleted. Thus the quality will improve over time. We had better get used to cooperating with machine translation, Google or not, because it is here to stay.


  8. Sites that use the Google Translate API (or any other one for that matter) should be made to carry a “health warning” so that users are made aware that the text may not have been checked by a native speaker.


  9. Posted by James on September 1, 2011 at 17:46

    Steve: yes, I agree. They should also warn users that the material uploaded for translation automatically becomes part of the public domain and can be used by Google for any purpose it sees fit.


  10. We are professional translators and translating is what we do for a living…
    Sure, MT threatens our way of living and we naturally resent it, but I see it as unavoidable.
    I’m just turning seventy and probably will not see the day when machines can provide an acceptable translation (although I may be wrong…). On this day, human translators will face the same challenge weavers faced in England, during the Industrial Revolution, when looms replaced their efforts, or clerks, when computers started to do their chores.
    Today, MT is many times laughable, but it is improving.
    We may be forced to find another line of work…


  11. Posted by James Williamson on September 8, 2011 at 12:39

    We need to do 3 things to see this in persepctive:
    1 – Stop comparing MP and human translation as if they were mutually exclusive
    2 – Remember what we all know, that language has multiple semantic layers.
    3 – When talking about MT we are mainly talking about corporate translation.

    With respect to the first, we already use CAT tools to which we import a good deal of the TM from clients. Levered translation of a technical document in your own CAT environment uses a machine – human interface in which the machine does most of the work. We should compare Google Translate to the state of the art in other MT systems, not to “pure” human translation, and admit that it is a step forward. For the first time an MT system is capable of producing “acceptable” levels of high-volume, low added-value translation for which the main requirement is speed (turnaround measured in minutes), not quality. This is translation of enormous volumes of data with a short useful life (ephimeral web content mostly) that would never have been translated if it weren’t done by a machine.
    The second point arises from the first. The language is of many documents is as one-dimensional (lacking ambiguity and semantic layers) as the authors can make it: manuals, technical descriptions, parts lists, industrial process descriptions etc. are deliberately authored for MT. Translation-oriented authoring is a competence used by all major corporations. They can’t afford to pay for human translation for this kind of document. Nor is it necessary. On the other hand, there is an enormous volume of corporate literature which will “always” require human translation: promotional material, tenders, management reports etc. contain multiple ambiguities connected with persuasion, humour, controversy, justification, etc the nuances of which are human by nature. And that’s not even considering literature as such. Try translating a poem by García Lorca on Google and you will see the limitations: it produces gibberish. For all the above reasons I see MT as another tool for the translator, not as a threat. The main effect will be to vastly increase the volume of material translated, but this material was never available to the human freelancer in the first place. Material affecting the corporate image will continue to need human translators for the foreseeable future.


  12. Well… I never said how fast or how easy…
    I remember a story about when James Watt suggested his steam engine should be used for locomotives.
    The most important scientific body, at that time, was the Royal Academy of Sciences and they decreed that this was unfeasible, because “the human body would not resist travelling at speeds greater than 100 km/h and people would die.” (I have adapted the story, of course).
    One really never knows what the future has in store and how far it is, don’t we?


  13. @James Williamson…
    Great reasoning. I feel enriched and agree.


  14. Posted by cole on October 4, 2011 at 15:54

    I don’t think we’ll see MT reach any kind of feasible quality for official use within the next ten years, if ever. It might be okay if you just want to get a quick look at short sentences or some words… but to get a fully understandable and accurate translation there is just no way past a professional translator or agency.
    I have to admit, though it can be fun to play around with MT a bit, just to see how garbled some things become i nback translation 🙂


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