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Google Translate: Friend or Foe?

Recently I put a Farsi-language ad in a Facebook group that said:

If anyone needs any type of translation to and from Farsi, Please contact us at (212) 304- 4400. With over 25 years of experience in translation we have produced books, articles, and document translations to individuals and professionals all over the world. For a list of our services visit



Member of the American Translators Association (ATA)

Within 24 hours, somebody wrote a comment saying, “OR, you can use Google Translate, which is free.”

I actually want to praise that person, because they’ve given me an opportunity to dispel the notion that there is an equivalency between a professional translation and what Google Translate provides. I’m sure a lot of people think the same way — and sometimes it’s true. Google Translate works great for unambiguous text that does not use local expressions or other idiosyncrasies of the language (that may not even be documented). If that is the case, by all means use Google Translate.

That said, Google Translate does play a rather small role in the crafting of my translations, alongside other reference books and websites. Personally, I use it as a springboard — I may find a word on Google Translate and be reminded of something I forgot, or I may take it to Merriam-Webster for synonyms.

However, there are consequences to using translation programs as your sole means of translating. They are incapable of having the cultural sensitivities necessary for a translation that is both accurate and precise. More often than not, online translations need to be redone. (Foreign language teachers often make assignments out of correcting Google translations.)

For example, one of my clients came to me after her university required that she have her documents revised and edited by a professional translator. The translation she had provided the university could not be understood.

So, the answer to the question, “Why should I pay for a translation I can get for free from Google?” is easy. Translators are not selling Google Translate. We are offering expertise in language, culture, geography, and much more.

  • You can be sure you won’t offend anyone
  • You and your organization will be understood
  • You can steer clear of false cognates and other linguistic features that confuse computers

For more information about the translation and interpreting services offered by The Farsi Translation Center, click here.

Sepideh Moussavi, MSSepideh Moussavi, MS

Farsi Translation Center
(212) 304- 4400

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