Chances are if you are living or traveling in a Spanish speaking country you will use Google Translate at some point.
Google Translate can be a help but it can also mess you up.
Google Translate = Embarrassing Situation
When we moved to Ecuador I used Google Translate (I didn’t know any Spanish) to prepare for a conversation I was about to have. I needed to talk to someone about something I wanted them to do and tell them that I would be back the following week to ask them if they did it.
I ended up telling them that I would be back the next week to “argue” with them about it! I had wanted to tell them that I would be back to continue the conversation, but instead, I ended up saying that I would be returning to continue the argument!
Imagine how embarrassed I was when a friend pointed out my mistake and then told me about the pitfalls of using Google Translate. I was a little worried about how things would go when I returned to “argue” with those victims of my poor Spanish.
Thankfully they were very patient and seemed happy to see me again. It has been our experience that Ecuadorians are very understanding and forgiving when we gringos make mistakes while learning the language.
(Bryan found the following video and it was the inspiration for this post. We thought it was really funny and highlighted the experience that is so common to everyone trying to learn Spanish and use Google Translate as a resource. We hope you like it…)
Language Fun With Google Translate
Translation and Context
Google Translate can be a good tool but the problem comes in because there is more than one way to translate the meaning of a word.
For example, the word I used for “to converse” was discutir. Discutir can mean to discuss, to debate or to argue.
More commonly here in Ecuador, it means “to argue.” Google Translate being the machine it is, did not know that I wanted to converse and not argue. It could not pick up on the context of the sentence I had typed into it. Conversar would have been the more appropriate word.
If you type in English and have it translated into Spanish it can help to copy and paste the Spanish results into the typing box and switch the translation to English to see if the results are the same. The results can be surprising 🙂
We still use Google Translate but now we often type in Spanish and have it translated into English. It usually gives us a pretty good idea if we have the conjugation correct.
But we still consult dictionaries and other Spanish learning books (like 501 Spanish Verbs) to make sure that we are not way out in left field. Sometimes we still use Google translate to get the sense of a newspaper article – especially if it is a topic we aren’t familiar with.
There is no doubt that we still make a lot of mistakes, but they are less because we know the dangers of only using Google Translate.
More reading: Guide to The Best Way to Learn Spanish (Immersion, Books, Classes, Resources)
Do you have any funny Google Translate stories to share? Please share them with us by commenting on this post.
Hi, I’m Dena Haines. And I’m co-founder of Storyteller travel. I love to cover food, animals, and destinations around the world. I also blog about photography at ClickLikeThis.