Chinese Market Q&A #1: Google Translate?


I recently received a query from a European author, who is interested in promoting his book to the Chinese market as an ebook. As his first language is not English (and, alas, I only work between English and Chinese languages), he proposes:

“The book is originally written in (an European language), but to evaluate, if you are interested, I can translate the novel to Chinese or English by Google Translate and mail it to you. Even if the grammar is not perfect in such a translation, you can get an approximate vision of the content.”

Below is my response to him:

“My suggestion is to NEVER use Google Translate on your novel or any other reading. It will completely destroy your novel and ruin any chance you may have with any publisher, Chinese or not. These days there are websites via which you could find all kinds of translators who are willing to do work for you for various amount of money. Choose a chapter as an example, and find someone to translate it for you, into either Simplified Chinese or Traditional Chinese. Once we have received the sample translation, we will be able to tell you straight away, whether the translation is of a good quality, and whether your chapter looks attractive enough for a potential Chinese reader.”

Indeed, the problem of Google Translate concerns not only grammar, but also the choice of words and writing style in general, which is the main point that distinguishes one writer from another. It is bad enough to send a sample chapter full of grammatical errors to a potential publisher. You certainly don’t want the publisher to think that you write like a machine. Any “approximate vision” of your content will be devastated by the unfathomable words and irritating grammatical combination of these words chosen by Google Translate.


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