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How well does Google translate work with Chinese?

Updated on March 8, 2013

The picture on my Japan Rail ticket

my experiment with Google Translate

I conducted a small experiment to test how well Google translate works at translating Chinese to English.

I wrote a short essay in Chinese about the recent Tsunami. I discussed the essay with a native Chinese speaker and made some small corrections to grammar and word choice based on her advice. So, although my ability to express myself in Chinese is less than my ability to express myself in English, I am confident that my intended meaning came through.

Here is Google Translate's translation of my essay:

Tsunami was amazing

Although sailing in Japan is far away from the pier, but the terminal facilities were injured. I've heard in Santa Cruz have twenty or thirty boats sank. And I heard a train in Japan with four missing. I remember the Japanese train company has a trademark on the ticket. This comes from a famous trademark paintings, depicting the crew of Japan's enemies are drowned by a tsunami. Japan's high-speed train I was sitting when I did not think I would have probably drowned. I think that this logo is very symbolic. About the Japanese train company did not previously think of the symbolic meaning, but now showing the. Japan's train usually safe and on time, one can not imagine being late. Train like big, heavy, worse than me much. One can create the kind of thing makes me feel proud, but the earthquake reminded us that nature is very great and the people are very weak soft. I do not entirely know why that caught my train of thinking, but those missing the train on behalf of my imagination of this disaster. This reminds me of the pattern on this ticket. Fortunately, I left the ticket to do in remembrance

Here is how I would express the same thoughts directly in English:

The Tsunami was incredably powerful

Although the marina where my boat is kept is very far from Japan, the dock still suffered damage. I have heard that in Santa Cruz twenty or thirty boats sank. Also, I heard that in Japan four trains were missing, which reminds me of a logo on my Japan Rail ticket. The logo depicts a would-be invading army being drowned by waves. It is from a famous painting. When I rode on Japan's high speed trains, I never thought that I might, too, be drowned. Now, the logo has lots of symbolic meaning, not a symbolism that Japan Rail had in mind when they printed the ticket, but one that has become appearant, since. Normally, Japan's trains are very punctual and safe. I can't imagine one being late. Trains are big and heavy things that are much more impressive than I am. It makes me proud that men can build such things, but the earthquake reminded us that nature is very great and men are weak. I don't entirely know why the missing trains came to symbolize the disaster in my imagination, but I am reminded of the artwork on my ticket. Fortunately, I kept the ticket as a sourigner.

Admittedly, in some places I chose ways of expressing myself in English that are somewhat different than the corresponding Chinese sentence, but language is like that. Each language has its own distinct modes of expression. However, even allowing for that, the Google translation seems less than entirely adiquate, but better than nothing.

I have tried similar experiments in the past. Google translate is getting better, but still not

The original essay in Chinese


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    • Bob Zermop profile image

      Bob Zermop 

      6 years ago from California, USA

      Hi, first comment! This was a seriously helpful article for me as someone learning Mandarin. I've been looking for a while for an experiment like this one, seeing as my mandarin isn't nearly good enough to test it, and this is the first I've found. Thanks!

    • DavitosanX profile image


      7 years ago

      Sadly, most translation technologies can't be accurate beyond very simple sentences. It's a shame that you have to know both languages in order to know whether the translator made a mistake or not.


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