Google Translate is known for its less-than-perfect machine translations, which in and of itself isn’t a big problem. Since, well, you get what you pay for. This leaves the door open for professional translators to still make a living delivering professional translations.
Google Translate is meant to be used as a bare-bones solution to translating simple texts on the fly, however it seems more and more companies and individuals are relying on it as a cost-saving measure to translate their websites, either not realizing their translations are poor, or simply not caring too much (which can be detrimental to a business wishing to target non-English speaking clients).
For example, take a look at the result of Google Translate’s version of a Norwegian translation here. When Google translates “Shoot some zombies and make it back in time for a hearty dinner!” it gives you: “Skyt noen zombier og gjøre det tilbake i tid for en solid middag!” However, the correct translation would be closer to: “Skyt noen zombier og komme deg tilbake tidsnok for en herlig middag!”
So clearly, if you need a professional Norwegian translation you’re not going to find it in Google Translate.
When companies rely on Google Translate, unfortunately it isn’t only that company who suffers.
“It’s not a big problem yet – [but] it could get worse,” said Google’s director of research Peter Norvig. “We mostly address it by judging the quality of a site. If you look good, we’ll keep your examples; if you look sketchy we’ll toss them out.”
Google has already sought to make it difficult for spammers to pollute the web with poorly translated text by shutting down its Google Translate API. Norvig also disclosed an approach in which Google tried to fingerprint each translation through precise word and syntax choices that wouldn’t be obvious to the reader, but would be obvious to Google’s bots, but said the company had retired the scheme as it was not effective.