This may be a very very stupid question but I need to ask it. I have written my dissertation in my mother tongue first, then began to translate it as I will submit it in English. While doing so I used Google Translate from time to time. I didn't copy anything from anybody, only translated my own sentences. But I also read somewhere that since Google saves everything you write online, programs like turnitin detect them and take it as plagiarism. Is it? Or even if it is not plagiarism, would it cause me some problems? I really need to be sure about this, please do not answer if you are not 100% sure.

Edit: I want to add that I did not simply copy and paste everything from there, I just benefited from it sometimes and of course always correcting the dumb grammatical mistakes.

7 Answers 7


There is no way in which anyone would be able to present a convincing case that this is plagiarism. You have the original (the version in your mother tongue) which predates the google logs.

It is still possible that a plagiarism scanning tool would detect it in the way you described, but you will be able to explain it away very easy.

That type of tools also pick up any citations that you use as possible plagiarism, even if the use is completely legitimate. A human always have to analyse the output to determine if it is legitimate or not.

Just keep the original version and this should be no problem.


Translating your own work using GoogleTranslate is not plagiarism, any more than hiring someone to translate your work would be considered plagiarism. (In the latter case, you would insert a line stating "translated by...")

While Google does store what you write, it's not a dump of "everything ever written in any form by anyone" that plagiarism-detecting tools later go over. Instead, there is "everything published online", which Google doesn't store, merely indexes so it can be found. Software searching for plagiarism would be going over (a subset of) that. And there is the stuff you've entered into Google's search line. Some of it, Google stores. And does analysis on. But it's not really accessible, except in aggregated form - "N people this year searched for X". As for what people search to translate, I'm not sure Google stores that at all, but if they do, it would be in the same sort of "bucket" as the searches - not the "bucket" plagiarism-detecting tools would search. (Somebody more tech-savvy is more than welcome to improve on this explanation.)

As @rasan076 points out, there's always a human at the end of the line, reviewing what the software spits out, and figuring out whether there's really any plagiarism. Since you hold the original work, it is very clear that there isn't. Basically, it's your work. You publish it online, you do whatever with it, it's still your work. No plagiarism.

Only problem you might run into is, Google Translate is not a very good translator. Your sentences might well lose their original meaning, or any semblance of meaning at all.

  • A few years ago there was a big upgrade in the capabilities of Google Translate. It's far from perfect but it's a lot closer to human-generated translation, especially for European languages. The German-English pairing is surprisingly good according to a friend who works as a translator between German and English. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 7:05

No, but you will likely end up with a lot of errors. It's not plagiarism, because it's not like Google Translate uses an advanced AI to turn your writing into a masterpiece. However, it might be considered to be plagiarism in the future when the AI improves and can literally improve your writing, and you use it to improve your writing.


As a French teacher, I agree 100% with D Nappo. I have just finished reading final essays by 11th grade students (level III Honors) who are to be writing in their best French and a number of them turned in glowing compositions more typical of a college student's writing or beyond (despite numerous discussions, examples, documentation in the syllabus, etc). However, the initial inquiry above is a different case. The candidate has written his/her dissertation in the mother tongue and needs it be in English. It is not the English that is being graded whereas in a language teacher's case, the accurate and proper use of technical expression is what is graded and if said content/expression is not derived in the target language via the student's original thinking and depends on an external source, it is indeed plagiarism. It certainly would be interesting and quite comical if a student submitted a composition in French and credited Google translator as the source! :)


Using Google Translate is not plagiarism, but it's not automatically free and clear either.

Google Translate is a tool, and tools have terms of service. If you use any tool be it Google Translate , Word, or a music synthesizer what you need to know is under what terms you are using those tools.

When you use these kinds of tools, most commonly online or install software on your machine you agree to a an end user agreement or terms of service. In those terms it will describe how you can use the out put of that tool. As I am not going to give legal advice here, I will say you need to read Google Translate's terms and see if they permit you to use the output in the way that you want.

This applies to anyone in other questions talking about AI, and it's complexity. No matter how simple or complex the UI is unless we have AI rights in some far off future, it will always come down to under what terms you are using the AI. For instance many products let you use it for free if you are not using it to make money, but if you are you need to purchase a license or pay for it in some other way.

TLDR Always read the fine print before you use anything commercially.


I think plagiarism is not the real issue here. It's ultimately about the second part of your question -- what it means for the quality of the end result.

I don't know about dissertations but I was recently talking to someone who knows multiple languages and asked him about whether tools like Google Translate can ever really substitute for human translation. Perhaps not surprisingly, his answer was no, in part because of the many nuances and complexity of languages. If you're going to be submitting a dissertation, you want to have something that looks and reads as professionally as possible.

More details on the technical nature of this debate are in this article.

Depending on how often you're going to be referencing material in another language, I'd even think about learning it, or at least the basics. There proliferation of ESL classes and French classes has prompted a lot of other organizations to provide classes where you can become fluent relatively quickly.

Good luck with your dissertation!


Using Google Translate or another machine translation engine is absolutely plagiarism. Translating a text from one language to another requires work, mental energy, and one is relying on an algorithm to do it (rather than doing it oneself). If one submits a text translated by a machine without citing that machine, it is work being passed off as one's own. In other words, classic plagiarism.

  • 1
    That's not what plagiarism means. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 7:06

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.