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Everything Translation

What’s the Most Efficient Way To Translate a Google Doc?

Looking to translate a document from one language to another quickly? When your linguistic skills leave a lot to be desired, machine translation tools can prove invaluable. If you’re working in Google Docs, you can make use of Google’s very own machine engine to take care of the translation. In just a few clicks, Google Translate will adapt your document, converting it into the target language of your choice.

Sounds too good to be true? Sadly, that’s because it is. Google Docs is incredibly user-friendly and Google Translate is becoming ever more advanced, but the combination of the two rarely produces anything close to professional-level translations. Below, we’ll explore how Google Doc translation works in more detail, alongside the drawbacks of doing so.

How to translate a Google Doc

When translating a PDF document or Word document yourself, you typically have to copy and paste the entire text into a third-party translation window. Because of restrictive word and character limits, the results are often truncated. Google Docs approaches things differently, allowing you to access complete translations in just a few moments. 

To translate a Google Doc file into a new language, first, select ‘Tools’ and then click ‘Translate document’. A dialog box will then appear, letting you add a title for your newly created translated copy. After you’ve created a title, look below that field to find the ‘Choose a language’ drop-down menu. You’ll then be able to sift through more than 100 popular languages. Make your selection and then click ‘Translate’. 

A new tab will then appear, containing the translated document. Remember, this is only a copy and the original document will remain. You can switch between these two tabs when proofing your translation for any errors or formatting issues. While the translation functionality of Google Docs is convenient and somewhat reliable, the results are far from professional. If you’re dealing with a translated document intended for a big-ticket client or senior stakeholder, it’s best to take a different approach. 

Translating a Google Doc professionally 

Google Docs is a smart solution for basic translation requirements. However, it falls far short of professional quality. If you’re out to impress with a business pitch or pivotal piece of marketing copy, it’s best to use enterprise translation software or call in the services of an experienced translation and localization provider. 

Using a translation service provider solves many of the problems presented by Google Docs and its translation limitations. You’re not bound by restrictive word limits, meaning you’re not going to have to deal with truncated text and missing sections of vital information. What’s more, you can be confident that the text you receive will be perfectly formatted and free of any glaring grammatical errors. When you’re out to make the right first impression, this level of precision is essential. 

While it’s quick and easy to translate a Google Doc yourself, you still have to approach each translation individually. If you’re looking to translate vast volumes of content, it’s not the most practical of solutions. When you use a localization and translation partner, you can easily scale your output, without having to invest in expensive internal resources. You can also leverage tools like translation memory to streamline your workflows. Ideal if you’re eyeing expansion and want to realize growth objectives. 

What’s more, the best translation providers will offer support in more world languages than Google Docs. While most common language pairs are supported by Google Translate, minority languages are less represented. Translation quality can also vary depending on the language pair. 

Common issues with translating a Google Doc

With its integrated translator, Google Docs can seem like an easy choice if you want to translate documents. However, while most translations are straightforward enough, you can encounter all manner of issues when translating Google Docs from one language to another. Below, we’ll take a look at some of the most common problems users face. 

1. Don’t depend on free translator tools 

While there are plenty of free-to-download and use Google Doc translators out there, most of them come with significant limitations. The main drawback of these free tools is that you’ll typically only be able to document with a relatively small file size. In most cases, free translations are capped at 10MB. This roughly equates to about 10 pages of text. Ultimately, if you’re looking to translate larger Google Doc files than this frequently, you’ll need to consider other solutions. 

2. It doesn’t compete with human translations

Translation software is becoming increasingly sophisticated, and the machine translation capabilities of Google Docs are no exception. Google Docs leverages its own translation engine, Google Translate, to handle things. But how accurate is Google Translate? This isn’t an easy question to answer. While the meaning of sentences is relatively well preserved, Google Translate can struggle with more complex phrases.

Although Google Translate supports more than 130 different languages, accuracy does vary considerably between language pairs. While Google Translate tends to perform well when translating content from one language into English, it doesn’t fare as well when translating in the opposite direction. 

What’s more, Google Translate runs into trouble when adapting content from one language into another with a wildly different word order. AI-enabled translations might be improving all the time, but they still have a way to go before they match the reliability of a human linguist. 

3. Formatting issues can be a problem 

Even basic formatting can be a stumbling blog when translating text in a Google Doc. The most frequently seen formatting issue is a lack of spaces between words. If you’re not familiar with the target language, then spotting these spacing errors isn’t always possible. Even if you correctly suspect a space has been dropped from the translated file, having to go through and restore them manually takes time. It’s a repetitive task that gets old fast. 

Use the translate function of Google Docs enough and you’ll probably also come across errant headers. Instead of remaining at the top of a page or text section, an H1 or H2 can sometimes end up being merged with the subsequent paragraph. While this is a fairly easy spot and therefore a straightforward fix, it’s yet another editing task you shouldn’t have to waste time on. 

4. Other potential issues

While the machine translation functionality of Google Docs is nothing to be scoffed at, the results can leave a lot to the imagination. Looking to produce a professional-quality translated document for a discerning reader? You probably won’t get it here. There’s still a high possibility of inaccurate translations, which you’ll have to amend manually time and again. As well as being incredibly time-consuming, it leaves a wide margin for human error. 

Finally, you need to remember that you’re dealing with a single-engine solution. Google Translate isn’t a bad machine translation engine at all. In fact, it’s one of the better free-to-use options around. However, you’re bound by its limitations and there’s no scope for reporting and correcting translation errors as you spot them. 

Improve translations with Google Doc add-ons

Do you find the translation capabilities of Google Docs a bit lightweight? With Google Docs add-ons, you can increase functionality and usability. Let’s start with a couple of add-ons that cater exclusively to translation. 

If you’re a devoted Google user, the Translate All add-on should appeal. Enabling one-click translations for Google Docs, Google Slides, and Google Sheets, you can translate a spreadsheet in seconds or quickly adapt a document written in English for Spanish-speaking readers. In total, more than 100 languages are supported, with the free version letting you translate 1800 words every 24 hours. Of course, you can upgrade to the premium version, with a monthly subscription setting you back $7.99. 

Docs Paragraph Translate is an incredibly useful add-on that lets you translate blocks of text, rather than an entire file. It’s a handy tool if you want to approach translation projects methodically and overcome that annoying 10MB translation limit. Although it doesn’t support as many languages as Google Translate, many global languages can be found here, including English, German, French, and Spanish. 

Other useful add-ons

Although they haven’t been created with translations in mind, many other Google Doc add-ons can enhance the appeal of your translated documents. Docs Builder lets you add content snippets and create custom styles, making it ideal if you regularly translate documents and want to maintain consistency. Translating into English? Use an add-on like Text Cleaner to take care of any formatting errors like unwanted spaces and line breaks. 

Dealing with sensitive documents that need to be shared with multiple users? With DocSecrets, you can create passwords and security permissions so that certain information is only shared with select people. This saves you from having to create multiple versions of the same document with redacted text sections. 

Speak to BLEND about Google Docs and professional document translations

Tired of dealing with second-rate translations of Google Docs? It’s time to call in the experts. At BLEND, we have extensive experience in translation management, with a seasoned network of linguists translating professional documents for just about every industry. From legal papers to medical records and everything in between, we’re on hand to help with those demanding translation tasks that tools like Google Translate simply can’t manage. 

What’s more, the process couldn’t be more simple. With our self-service Wizard, you can upload your original documents and add your brief in moments. Once you’ve received and approved your quote, our translators will take it from there. 

Do you have an urgent document translation task? Get started with our self-service Wizard today or get in touch with the team with any questions. 

author post

Corinne Sharabi

Corinne is the Social Media and Content Lead at BLEND. She is dedicated to keeping global business professionals up to date on all things localization, translation, language and culture.


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