Online Translation – Is it Any Good?

Translation is an incredibly difficult service to provided on an automated basis. Every language has its own special rules for the treatment of certain words and phrases, which makes the job of an AI robot millions of times harder than just translating sentences on a word for word basis. It is partly why the job of a translator will probably never be completely taken over by robots..

Our company provides translation and transcription into and out of every world language, but a lot of internet users will use an instant translation service to quickly check a phrase or word out. How do these fare? We asked Emily Fagan to test five of the best.

Translation Test – The Paint is Too Light and Don’t Drink the Ocean!

I’ve chosen two phrases to test out in various online translation: one will be French to English and one will be English to French. These are:

  • The paint is too light (This phrase is commonly translated wrong). It should be translated to la peinture est trop claire.
  • Ce n’est pas la mer à boire ­(a less common French idiom which literally means “It’s not like you have to drink the ocean” but actually means ‘it’s not difficult’). I had my doubts that any translation services would be able to translate it.

Google Translate

Perhaps the most commonly used online translator by business and academic users. Probably every student in the world has used Google Translate to translate their language homework for them at some point! You can translate audio, a document or handwritten text in over 100 languages. It also offers multiple translations along with a rating of how common the phrase is.

The Paint is Too Light

Google Translate did not fall into the trap and translated it correctly.

It’s Not Difficult

This didn’t translate correctly. I have to say though that Google Translate is very good at translating a wide range of French idioms.

Overall Impression – Google Translate

Overall Google Translate is extremely good if you want to translate individual words or translating from another language into English however where it doesn’t always do the best in is translating long paragraphs of text or on less commonly used phrases. Also the way you phrase stuff to be translated meaning that language teachers can instantly spot when it is used to translate.


This online translator allows you to translate between 11 languages and is useful as it shows definitions of words and can complete sentences. It also shows alternative translations allowing you to use synonyms. In addition it can provide a formal/ informal tone for certain languages.

The Paint is Too Light

This got it half correct because it shows ‘claire’ in the alternative however ‘légère’ means light but as in the weight.

It’s Not Difficult

It didn’t get the idiom at all. I tried it with other French idioms. Deepl managed to get some of these, but not all.

Overall Impression – Deepl

Overall I think this is quite useful for synonyms however it doesn’t translate to that many languages compared to other online translators

Bing Microsoft Translator

This online translator is extremely similar to Google Translate with all the same features. However it can only translate just over 60 languages.

The Paint is Too Light

This didn’t translate it correctly as it used ‘légère’ instead of ‘claire’

It’s Not Difficult

Microsoft Translator did not translate this idiom or any others that I tried and this could be due to the limited numbers of words it can translate.

Overall Impression – Bing Microsoft Translator

Overall I think that this is just a less good copy of Google Translate and isn’t as good as other online translators.

Yandex Translate

Yandex Translate goes above other online translators as it can translate images and websites for 99 languages, making it very useful for business.

The Paint is Too Light

It didn’t translate correctly but it shows examples and gives suggestions of other things to translate.

It’s Not Difficult

I tested other idioms in and found that their actual meaning was offered underneath in the examples when it was put in a sentence.

Overall Impression – Yandex

Overall this translator is quite good as it offers examples and can translate images and websites.


It is a more older looking website which doesn’t autotranslate as you type – you have to press a button saying translate. However it translates in over 50 languages.

The Paint is Too Light

This didn’t translate correctly and the ads down the side are very distracting.

It’s Not Difficult

This didn’t translate correctly and when I tested other idioms they didn’t work either.

Overall Impression – Translate Dict

Overall this website looks very old compared to the other websites and because it doesn’t auto translate as you type it isn’t very useful compared to the others.

Conclusion – Google Translate and Yandex the best in town

In conclusion out of the five that I have tested the best ones are Google Translate and Yandex Translate. Google Translate has the best features and is quick and easy to use. Yandex Translate can translate photos and websites and also offers examples underneath which help to give context.

However.. all translators still lack in being able to translate phrases like idioms correctly and the way you phrase your translation can change the meaning of the sentence. Furthermore for the purposes of this test I only translated between English and French. For other languages such as Spanish there are special online translators like Spanishdict which offer a more accurate translation than the generalist services.

Emily Fagan is a writer and contributor to our blog. Emily is a student and reviews online services for us, providing her own take on them.

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