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Using Google Translate for official documents: is it a good idea?

Atualizado: 12 de Set de 2019

Google Translate (or Google Tradutor) became a huge ally to those moving between different languages. It is a user-friendly free service providing instant translation in more than 100 languages.



Launched in 2006 in the United States and in 2007 in Brazil, the tool has been constantly enhanced and today the quality of its translations can be fairly decent. In view of that, it makes sense to ask ‘why to use a professional translation service which is not free and can take days to be ready’, if we have a free, instant and reasonably assertive tool at our disposal.


Reason Number 1: The translation by Google Translate is not recognized for official documents


This is the main reason why you should not use Google Translate for official documents. Under the law, official bodies, court proceedings and academic institutions only acknowledge the validity of sworn translations, made by public sworn translators. Only this type of translation makes valid the documents issued in other countries or in a foreign language.


That happens because a sworn translation goes through a rigid control by governmental bodies, which assures their provenance, the translators’ competence and consequently the reliability of the translated documents.


In Brazil, Decree Number 13.609 of October 21, 1943 sets forth that:

Article 18 – No book, document or paper of any nature being drawn up in a foreign language may produce effects in departments and offices of the Federal Government, States and Municipalities, at any level, instance or Court or entities maintained, supervised or ruled by public authorities, without being accompanied by the respective translation made in compliance with this regulation.


Thus, for official purposes, only a sworn translation produces legal effects.


To know more about this type of translation, check the articles: “Sworn and Simple Translations: What is the difference?” and “Sworn Translation: What is it and how is it made?”


Reason Number 2: The Google Translate tool “slips” over technical terms, given names and idioms


As an automatic tool we have to admit that Google Translate “wrings blood from a stone”; many times, it goes right “on the bull’s eye” but in others, it fails miserably.


Can you see that the terms between quotation marks should not be understood literally? Many times, Google fails to see the subtlety.


As much as Google has been enhancing the Translate in the last years, the tool is still unable “to capture” many technical terms and idioms. This means that, although Google Translate helps to understand certain sentences, it will hardly provide a reliable version of more complex, dense and/or literary texts. Besides, the automatic translation usually confuses given names that are also words – for instance, Apple (the company) should not become maçã (the fruit) in Portuguese. This may be especially sensitive to commercial documents, technical instructions and any information which could support the decision-making process in companies.


Reason Number 3: o Google Translate does not provide warranties of its translatoins


In its terms of use and warranty, Google is quite clear: “We do not make any promises as to the contents of the services, the specific function of the services, reliability, availability or capacity thereof to meet the user’s needs”. This means that, although making efforts to offer a reliable service, Google is not responsible for it. When retaining professional translation services, you are assured that the result will be reliable and secure.


Conclusion


Google Translate has improved the quality of its translations and therefore it can be quite useful for small excerpts or low-relevance translations. However, it has no legal validity for official documents; even for non-official documents the risk to choose Google Translate should be quite calculated, since many times the automatic tool neither comprehends subtleties and technical terms nor offers any warranty on its assertiveness.

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