Using Google search as a translation lookup tool

Google Translate, Microsoft Translator and similar machine translation tools are unsuitable for most mission-critical translation jobs. But Google Translate can be effectively used as an aid for various translation-related tasks. This includes using Google as a back translation tool for validation and QA of translations (see a post I wrote about it here). In today’s post, I would like to show you some Google search techniques that we have used to much advantage in translation projects. These simple techniques can be used by professional translators, editors, project managers and anyone who wants to monitor the quality of their translations.

Let’s say your translator turned in a job with some pretty specific industry terminology. How do you know that your translator translated the terms correctly? Incorrect translation of terminology or improper use of acronyms can be devastating to your ad campaign, sales brochure, video presentation, etc. Using Google, it is pretty easy to check for yourself even when your knowledge of the target language is limited.

One thing we need to remember is that Google search has some amazing natural language understanding technology that is initiated as soon as you start typing in your search query. I am sure that most of you know this already but it bears mentioning nonetheless. As you type in a string in Google you can see what the most common uses of it are on the Internet. And since the Internet is so huge, consensus is a very powerful factor in determining what the correct uses of a phrase are. This works in all of the languages which Google supports.

The first thing you want to do is familiarize yourself with the various country versions of Google search by going to Google’s language tools page (scroll down to the bottom of the page where all the flags are displayed). Depending on the language you are working in, you will want to access the country-specific version of Google when using it as a lookup tool. If you want to check a term or acronym in Spanish, access Google Spain or Google Argentina; if you want to check a term in German, go to Google Germany. And so on.

When in the country-specific Google version, type in the term you want to check. Use the Google exact match feature by inserting quotation marks around the term or phrase. If there are no or very few matches, then you know that the translation is probably incorrect. If there is a Wikipedia page for the term, chances are that the term was translated correctly and reading the Wiki page will provide further help on the language usages of that term.

Google's Internet language and country options (Spanish version)

To further pinpoint your search, use Google’s Internet options which are displayed on the left-hand side of the browser. You can choose to only display pages in the targeted language, or to only display pages in the targeted country. By using these search methods, it is easy to check on terminology usage and to verify that your translators have done a good job.

Another option is to type an English phrase into the country version of Google and then to only display the pages in the target language or country. This often provides many examples of how the term is translated in the target language.

4 thoughts on “Using Google search as a translation lookup tool

  1. Hi, ich benutze Google sehr viel zur Terminologie-Suche, aber das hier vorgestellte System kommt mir viel zu kompliziert vor. Wenn ich einen Begriff in der anderen Sprache suche (ich übersetze IT-De/DE-IT), dann gebe ich z.B. den gegebenen Begriff in der deutschen Sprache ein und dazu einen italienischen Begriff, der damit in Zusammenhang steht. Z.B. Ich suche ein großes Haus mit grünem Dach – und ich weiß nicht, was Dach heißt … dann gebe ich Haus, Dach und casa ein; auf diese Art und Weise wird früher oder später auch der Begriff “tetto” kommen. Natürlich braucht man schon einiges Gefühl für die andere Sprache, um die Übersetzung dann auch zu erkennen. Ausgestattet mit dem neuen Wort kann ich dann andere fremdsprachliche Texte zur Überprüfung suchen. Natürlich kann man auch den Google-Übersetzer nutzen, nur bei Fachtermini ist der meist überfragt (verständlicherweise). Sehr nützlich ist auch Wikipedia! Wünsche noch einen schönen Tag!

  2. I think Google translate is not bad at all! You can use it anytime for translating a small document into other language. It’s also good to translate any language instantly that you don’t understand. But yes, for professional reason I would recommend to go for a reliable service provider instead of using any online translation tools!

  3. Thank you for a detailed post, I couldn’t agree more. Using a search engine is a very powerful tool when it comes to finding the best wording for your translation. In addition to terminology, it helps to check style by letting you see how often a specific word combination is used and even compare the frequency of a given word combination against other possible options.

    Besides putting the search string in quotation marks, I also enjoy using the * sign which allows to match any number of words between the two search criteria, e.g. “we * win” returns “we deserved to win” and “we cannot win.”