So just how good is Google translate?

I think I need to explain a little why this is funny (and wrong).


Photo taken at the Hong Kong Masters equestrian event at the Asia World Expo.

First of all, for those who can’t read Chinese, the translation is 100% literal and completely off. If we back translate “看到你在那里” from Chinese (which is supposed to mean “See you there”, except it’s not), it means something like “I can see you right there”, which doesn’t make any sense.

This translation was taken straight from Google translate, with no one proofreading it, obviously. It’s an embarrassment, something that you would least expect to see at an international event in Hong Kong, held by such a prestigious organization (with an agency and everything!) Now I’m not saying that they should’ve hired me, but AT LEAST FIND SOMEONE TO PROOFREAD BEFORE THINGS GO TO PRINT!!! This is especially true if you can’t read the language. However simple it might seem, you can’t trust machines completely when it comes to translation.

Why would Google translate make such a mistake still baffles me. I suppose there’s some gap in its algorithm that made it miss such a common phrase. For the sake of testing how far Google translate can go (or can be off) I tried other phrases, and here’s how Google did on my little test:

  1. see you next year = 明年再見 
  2. see you later = 看你以後 × (back translation – look at you later on)
  3. see you tomorrow = 明天見 
  4. see you next time = 下次再見 
  5. see you soon = 看到您的到來 × (back translation – I can see you coming)
  6. see you then = 然後看你 × (back translation – and then see you / and then look at you)
  7. see you around = 看到你身邊 × (back translation – I can see next to you)
  8. see you = 看你 × (back translation – look at you)
  9. see you! = 看到你了! × (back translation – I can see you!) – Here I tried to see if punctuation makes any difference, yes it does, makes it even worse.
  10. I’ll see you soon = 我會看到您的到來 × (back translation – I will see you come) – Tried to see if adding a subject makes a difference, and it just gets wilder and wilder like my dreams. Literal translations can cause problems, we all know that, but why does Google translate think that “soon” means “come” in Chinese? Is there another meaning for “soon” that I do not know of?

Google translate score: 3/10

(Booya! Google translate!)

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