Posted by: patenttranslator | October 31, 2011

The Difference Between Google Language Tools 10 Years Ago and Now

I put Google Language Tools on my website about 10 years ago. However, I hardly ever used this function over the years because I saw it mostly as a fairly crude tool that can be used only for suggested translation of individual words. And for a long time, it was just that.

However, I am using the function now for much more than what it could do for me a few years ago. I don’t know what Google did to Language Tools, but something has changed. For example, last week I was translating from a Japanese product data safety sheet information about dangerous chemicals, information about their composition, toxicity, harmfulness to proliferating cells, etc. The fun stuff is usually at the end of the pages and pages of data about toxicity, such as what is the lethal dose of a chemical with oral administration to a dog, a rabbit, a rat, and a human. I happen to know many translators really enjoy translating these passages. (We call them “rat torture” translations: Could it be that most translators are closet sadists)?

But in addition to really enjoyable parts, there are also some difficult parts in similar documents. The most difficult parts for me to translate in these cases are current laws defining regulations for handling and transport of dangerous materials. Before the Internet, unless you were a perfectly bilingual Japanese lawyer familiar with the latest laws both in Japanese and English, you would have to simply translate the meaning of the Japanese words.

The problem is, the Japanese laws already have “official” translations which can be very different from the meaning of the Japanese characters. And I don’t want my customers who are mostly patent lawyers to get mad at me because the way they would see it, I can’t even translate correctly the name of a certain law.

Which is why I used to spend a lot of time looking on the Internet for the official translation of a Japanese law (or act, ordinance, regulation, etc.). But these days I can just type it in Japanese in Google Language Tools and … voilà, Google comes with the official existing translation of the law (act, ordinance, regulation), sometime even before I finish writing the title of the law in Japanese.

I find myself using different online dictionaries and machine translation tools more frequently these days, both general and specialized dictionaries, as well as machine translated texts of Japanese and German patent applications on the European Patent Office (EPO) and World Intellectual Property Office (WIPO).

A few years ago, the only machine translation tool that I was using on a regular basis was the Japanese Patent Office website. But you have to click your way through so many menus on this website to find a machine translation or an English abstract. The German Patent Office website is even worse in this respect.

I usually need only a couple of mouse clicks on the WIPO website to find what I am looking for.

And Google Language tools can sometime find the correct translation for me even before I finish typing the text in Japanese. That’s what I call progress! Instead of spending long minutes on the Internet trying to track down the English name of an obscure Japanese law, sometime in vain, it takes me now less than a minute.

Which means that I now have more time for the fun stuff, like looking for the correct medical terms identifying various body parts of rabbits, dogs, or mice (and humans?) who were mercilessly sacrificed on the altar of profit (I mean science) by the pharmaceutical and chemical industry.


  1. […] what’s with the alienation? GILT: Globalization, Internationalization, Localization, Translation The Difference Between Google Language Tools 10 Years Ago and Now Behind the CETRA Scene: Interview with a Spanish Translator, Paul Grens How to choose a domain name […]


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