Using machine translators (Google, Deepl, etc)

Dealing with uncertainty and not understanding sentences is sometimes scary and people like to have confirmation of what a sentence they are reading actually means or if their understanding is correct. For this reason, it’s common for beginners to use machine translators (MTL) as a tool to get more “complete” understanding.


  • In case of emergency or uncertainty, especially when dealing with IRL problems, Google Translate can be very useful
  • The OCR recognition of Google Translate/Google Lens is really good, it can be useful to recognize unknown kanji


  • MTLs do not know how to deal with incorrect Japanese. They assume whatever garbage you type in the box is “correct” and try to find whatever meaning they can grab, whether it makes sense or not
  • MTL language is extremely unnatural, wrong or extremely misleading
  • When going from English to Japanese Google translate will often just pick some random katakana word that sounds similar to the English one, regardless of it being correct or not
  • Japanese is a very contextual language and doesn’t have gendered words or obvious pronouns most of the time. It also doesn’t have a distinction between singular or plural. For this reason most MTLs are simply unable to cope with the lack of context or unable to infer the context from the text, so they will make up some stuff (gender, plurality, etc) and it will often be wrong
  • It’s very common for Google Translate to completely drop entire pieces of sentences it doesn’t know how to translate. What’s even worse, it won’t tell you it did that.

Conclusion: For advanced learners, some very targeted/specific usage of MTL can be useful (for example to “double check” some J-J definitions). It’s also okay to use Google translate if you’re in an emergency and just need to quickly communicate or figure out what a sign or button or something says in real life (like if you’re stuck in an elevator, etc). For every other situation, just forget MTL even exists. Stop using it. Stop relying on it. It’s misleading, wrong, and a bad habit you should avoid as much as possible. If you need help understanding what certain words or phrases mean, you should first and foremost check in a dictionary, then check on google search for articles explaining them (in case of jargon or slang), and if it’s still confusing to you try to find someone to help you (like a teacher, Japanese friend, or language learning discord servers). Also embrace the fact that you can’t 100% understand everything and if your understanding doesn’t quite match it’s okay too, if it’s a problem you’ll figure out from the context later. Also read It’s okay for things to be ambiguous.