By Craig Buckler

How to Reach a Global Audience With Google Translate

By Craig Buckler

Google TranslateLike many English people, I expect everyone to speak our language fluently. Rather than spend hours learning basic phrases, it’s far easier to speak slowly and gesticulate wildly. That’s why I end up buying a stuffed aardvark rather than the beer and peanuts I actually wanted.

On the web, an English-only attitude can lose you customers. The web is global; even publishing content in UK English can cause confusion in the US. However, few of us have the time, money, or resources to translate our pages.

Fortunately, automated tools are available to help you reach an international audience. They’re no substitute for accurate human translation, but they can help visitors understand what you’re trying to say. The latest translation tool has been developed by Google so you know it’s likely to offer more than most of the competitors.

The Google Translate Tool is available from To use it:

  1. Choose your website language.
  2. Choose to translate to all supported languages or a specific selection.
  3. Copy the code provided into your web page.

Like most translation tools, a drop-down list of supported languages is provided on your page in the location where the code was pasted:

translation widget

However, if your browser is set to a default language other than the one you’re viewing, a translation bar automatically appears at the top of the page. The bar is provided in the visitor’s language and offers a one-click translation process:

translation bar

Finally, for phrases that are lost in translation, the Google tool offers a useful hover-over popup box containing the original text:

translation popup

View an example page with Google Translate

The Google translation tool supports over 50 languages. Even Welsh. I can’t vouch for it’s accuracy, but it looks good given my limited knowledge of French and Spanish.

What do you think of the Google Translate tool? Is it accurate? Would you use it?


Image credit: zboog

  • LeRenard

    As a frenchman, the translated text is not understandable at all.
    All these translation tools are far from being usable on more than a single word or expression.
    At least, please if you use a translation tool, make sure the original content is easily reachable.
    If I took the time to learn english, I can at least have the right to get a decent version of the text so I can understand it fully.

  • Pixel Ink

    I have experimented with Google’s language tools on our online businesses. I have never ranked using them for content and I have also read feedback about our content being unreadable by anyone that is the native language. The only exception was the Spanish ebook we published, which I guess worked pretty well. I cannot imagine the Asian languages are even close. Give it time though, Ray Kurtzweil will figure it out.

  • I guess it will depend on the type of text being translated. My example uses the opening paragraphs from “War of the Worlds” because I knew it’d be a tough task. Short, punchy and factual sentences will translate better.

  • Chris

    @LeRenard for Japanese or Chinese, it can’t even figure out one sentence.

  • Pacifer

    The Norwegian translator is not good. It’s very random if you’ll get comprehendable translation from Norwegian to English.

    For a while I tried to use it to translate my blog articles to English. However the amount of work involved cleaning up the language, almost rendered it useless compared to just translate everything manually from scratch.

  • SandpitBoy

    So as a result of the comments, I can safely conclude that it’s pretty much a waste of time using this on a commercial site as a reliable source of translated content. Nice!

  • @SandPitBoy
    Yep, it certainly looks as though you should be careful with it (and any other auto-translation tool). However, I’m sure you’d get better results with simpler text.

  • Mike

    As a translator from German to English, I can say that the standard of machine translation is high compared to the gibberish that machines normally churn out. That said, it is still very poor and in no way could be used commercially, unless you want to make yourself a laughing stock.

  • kld

    One way I get a better translation from Google Translate is to reverse-translate the output text to see if it still says what I intended to say, then make adjustments in my language to get a better meaning and flow. This helps you catch some of the little quirks that Translate sometimes exhibits.

  • Generally these translation tools give a pretty poor result, I wouldn’t want to use it to translate a website – I’d rather hire a translator and get it done properly.

  • As pretty much everyone has said, it’s an awful, awful idea to do this. You’ll make yourself a laughing stock. If you are serious about selling to non-anglophone markets, show some respect for your potential clients by getting your site translated properly — remembering that the marketing message to Spain, for example, might use quite different concepts to one aimed at British people; it’s culture as well as language. So a word-for-word translation, even by a human being, is unlikely to be the best solution.

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