Google Translate does not always recognize languages

Alan Buckingham
Feb 4, 2013
Updated • Feb 4, 2013
Google Chrome

We all know nothing is perfect. Google does an excellent job in many areas, especially with web page translation and speech recognition for its Android  operating system. Up until today, I had never had a problem with either of these things, and I use both on a fairly regular basis.

Recently I wrote about the new suite of Bing Apps available for Office 2013 and Office 365 Home Premium. However, today I had reason to return to that original announcement from Bing and was surprised by the message that Chrome displayed at the top of my screen. Despite the post being written in English, Chrome detected it as Persian and asked me if I would like it translated.

Curious, I clicked translate and naturally the post remained in English. So, I can began researching this issue. Apparently it is not a new issue and many users experience it. In fact, Google's Josh Estelle, Senior Software Engineer for Google Translate, had this to say:

Detecting the language of a webpage can actually be a surprisingly difficult problem.  While we believe we generally do a pretty good job with it, there are definitely cases where we make mistakes.

That being said, you are doing the right thing by using appropriate language meta information in your page to make it abundantly clear what the language of your page is.  However, the problem is that many webpages have incorrect information in those language fields, so our language detection algorithms don't always trust them completely. That's what's happening in this case."

Alternately, I have found that Chrome also does not always offer to translate pages that are written in a language foreign to that for which the browser is set for. In this case, there is a workaround.

google chrome translate screenshot

You can right click on the page and use the menu item "translate to English" or whatever your native language is. If the option is greyed out, Google has produced an extension which can be found in the Chrome Web Store that will handle the problem.

The language recognition and translation is continuing to improve and, while it is already quite good, it can still encounter problems and still makes mistakes in the translation process.


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  1. RN said on July 9, 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Fantastic – right-click the page with incorrectly detected language is just what I needed to know!

  2. James said on February 8, 2013 at 1:44 pm

    When using Chrome 24.0.1312.57 m, I find that Google website translation service (not it’s translation webpage) fails me on about three out of four websites it recognizes as foreign. (I assume that Chrome recognizes the foreign language, then contacts Google’s translation service. But something goes wrong.)

    Usually it attempts to translate, then realizing that it has failed, it asks me if I want to let it try again. And always fails again.

    What’s worse is that it correctly recognizes only about half of the foreign language sites that I visit as a site that requires translation. So even that does not work right.

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