Translation guides | 02.10.2023

Why you shouldn’t trust free translation services in business

If you’re a business with materials to translate, it can be tempting to head to Google and search for something like “what is the best free online translator?”

Do this, and you’ll be met with a suite of recommendations for tools that can take your text and provide free and quick translations. But stop for a second: do you really feel confident in the output these tools provide?

We understand the appeal for free tools as a way to quickly and cheaply meet your business translation needs, but as experts in the industry, we’d strongly encourage you to reconsider. While the initial outlay may seem off-putting, we firmly believe that investing in paid translation services is crucial for maintaining accuracy, quality, readability, and security through the translation process.

In this blog post we’ll look at how professional translation services can deliver in each of these four areas, and the potential pitfalls you’ll encounter if you opt instead for free translation tools.



There are countless examples of mistranslations causing damage to a brand’s reputation, all of which demonstrate the importance of accuracy in translation, regardless of context. You need to be sure that the translated text conveys the same meaning as the original, and that the original tone and nuance are retained as effectively as possible.

For someone who doesn’t speak the target language, assessing this accuracy can be difficult. In professional contexts, especially in industries where the margin of error is minimal or absent entirely, these inaccuracies can lead to miscommunication, missed opportunities, or even legal consequences depending on the context.

With this in mind, it’s easy to see that accuracy in translation isn’t a luxury: it’s a necessity.

Potential pitfalls for free translation tools

Here are some limitations of free translation tools when it comes to accuracy of translation:

  • Lack of context: free translation tools only have access to the text they’re provided, and the lack of wider context – the industry, your tone of voice, the purpose of the document, etc – can lead to shortcomings. An example here is industry-specific terminology or acronyms, which a free translation tool lacking the industry experience of a human translator may be prone to mistranslate.
  • Syntax errors: syntax refers to the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences, and while free translation tools are far superior to their previous iterations, their ability to create syntactically correct translations is still limited, especially in more complex contexts.
  • Grammatical errors: as above, while free translation tools are more powerful and accurate than they used to be, they are still liable to make grammatical errors that a human translator would not. If the output of free translation tools is not reviewed by someone with proficiency in the output language, it’s likely that this type of error will not be caught.

Benefits of using professional translation services

And here’s how these pitfalls are avoided when using professional translation services:

  • Professional translators with industry experience: given the importance of context and experience in accurate translations, we only work with professional translators with experience in the industries they translate in. This ensures high levels of familiarity with language and concepts that allow for accurate translations.
  • Proofreading and quality control: our translations are subject to quality control processes and human review to ensure that any potential errors are identified and rectified before delivery, meaning that translation output is accurate and suitable for use on delivery.


While accuracy in translation is important, it’s just one part of the puzzle. As well as conveying the same meaning as the original, the translation must be consistent, coherent, and faithful to the original.

Quality of translation covers everything from linguistic precision to stylistic consistency across documents: all of which may suffer through reliance on free translation tools.

Potential pitfalls for free translation tools

With regard to the areas outlined above, here are some ways that the output of free translation tools may be lacking:

  • Inconsistency between documents: free translation tools only have access to the text they are translating at that moment; meaning that things like tone of voice and esoteric language may be lost across different documents. This means that even if individual pieces of translated copy are accurate, the cohesion between different outputs may suffer.
  • Inability to translate slang or other idiomatic language: depending on the context, a brand may use slang or other idiomatic language to cultivate a particular tone of voice. It’s unlikely that free translation tools will be able to accurately understand this linguistic tool, meaning that the intended effect may be absent from the resulting copy.
  • Inability to translate technical terms: in industries like law or medicine where highly specialised terms are used, free translation tools may lack the requisite knowledge to translate, or even understand these terms.

Benefits of using professional translation services

Professional translation services prevent these issues from manifesting in the following ways:

  • Specialist translators: as mentioned previously, translators with experience and expertise in relevant industries ensure that technical terms are translated correctly and used appropriately.
  • High levels of linguistic proficiency: by using translators with operational fluency in the origin and target languages, we ensure that slang or other idioms are properly translated.
  • Quality control: our quality control processes and proofreading mean that potential quality issues are rectified before delivery. We also have an ongoing review process where clients can review and request amends for projects before final signoff.
  • Translation memory: to ensure consistency across documents, we create and maintain a translation memory database for each client. This allows us to store translations for any terms or phrases associated with your brand and refer back to these in future, meaning consistent output across all projects.


Even if a free translation tool achieves an accurate and high quality translation, there’s no guarantee it will have good readability. This is the trait that makes a piece of text engaging to a human reader: something that will resonate, make an impact, and achieve its intended purpose.

In a business context, where complex information needs to be communicated in a clear and succinct way, with minimal room for error, readability is especially important.

Potential pitfalls for free translation tools

If you do decide to use a free translation tool, here’s what to look out for:

  • Over-reliance on literal translation: free tools are likely to default to a purely literal translation, which involves substituting each word or phrase for its equivalent. While this may create text that makes sense, it also carries the risk of feeling awkward or unnatural.
  • No awareness of target audience: a free translation tool will have no understanding of who will be reading the output, meaning it can’t adapt the language accordingly. This means that their level of linguistic proficiency, expertise, or familiarity with the subject matter is not taken into account.

Benefits of using professional translation services

As with accuracy and quality, these potential pitfalls are avoided when using professional human translators:

  • Native (or highly fluent) speaker advantage: creating translations that flow naturally in the target language relies on a level of linguistic proficiency that only comes with very high levels of fluency. To this end, we only work with translators who can demonstrate this level of fluency.
  • Readability tests: there are myriad ways to assess the readability of a piece of text, and we use the most appropriate metrics to assess our translated output. This ensures that the adequate standards of readability are met: especially important in contexts like healthcare where the ability for text to be understood can have direct impact on the wellbeing of the end user.
  • Familiarity with the target audience: as part of our onboarding process, we will look to understand in depth the target audience of each project. This means their level of linguistic proficiency will be understood, as well as any other information pertinent to achieving a translation that can be engaged with effectively.


Even if you do somehow find a free translation tool that reliably creates accurate, quality translations with high readability, the question of security remains. Many businesses requiring translation services are working with materials that include sensitive or even confidential information and the data security aspects of the tools are likely to be inadequate.

Potential pitfalls for free translation tools

Here are some of the ways free translation tools can fall short with regards to sensitive or confidential materials:

  • Data storage practices: using a free translation tool involves entering the text for translation into the tool and submitting it for processing, which requires transmission to their servers. For sensitive and confidential materials, this may present significant security risks and even breach local data security laws.
  • Licensing and ownership: a previous version of Google’s Terms of Service stated that “what belongs to you stays yours” when using their tools, but also that “when you upload, submit, store, send or receive content to or through our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works … communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.” It’s easy to see how this could become problematic with regards to sensitive or confidential materials.

Benefits of using professional translation services

Our services take these issues into account and remove all potential risks:

  • Use of NDAs: all translators working on a project are required to sign an NDA, which is a legally binding contract guaranteeing confidentiality.
  • Secure file transfer: to ensure security throughout the whole translation process, we use a secure file transfer system that allows the sending and receiving of encrypted files via a secure SSL/ TLS tunnel.
  • Translation management systems: we also offer a translation management system (TMS) that can plug directly into a client’s content management system, allowing for translation within the TMS without the need to download any files locally. This system is certified to ISO 27001 Information Security Management standard.

You can learn more about our translation security processes here.


Free translation: resist the urge

In conclusion, while it can be tempting to explore free translation tools for your professional translation needs, we would advise strongly against doing so. Despite the quick output and low costs, there are too many issues inherent to these tools that are impossible to avoid: all of which can lead to miscommunication, damage to brand reputation, and potentially even more severe consequences.

In this article we’ve explored how working with professional translation service providers can ensure translations with high levels of accuracy and quality, which will be readable by their target audiences, and fully compliant with all relevant security considerations.

To find out more about our translation services and how we can deliver the benefits outlined above, please get in touch. At The Translation People, we are proud to apply a best-in-breed approach, meaning that we choose the engines that perform best on certain language combinations, as well as offering MTPE service, which combines both human and machine translation, to provide the highest quality translations at lower prices.

We also invite you to browse our case studies to get a feel for the type and scale of projects we carry out for clients around the world.







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