Translation plagiarism: A modern-day concern


Even if you haven’t heard the term before translation plagiarism is a relatively new method individuals use to copy another person’s written work. This approach involves:

  1. Taking written content.
  2. Translating it into another language.
  3. Hoping to reduce the chances of plagiarism detection.

The basis for translation plagiarism lies in the assumption that when an article is processed through an automatic system, some of its words will be altered. This makes it less likely that detection programs will flag it as plagiarized work.

Examples of translation plagiarism

To understand the effects of automatic translation services on text quality, we created several examples. The discrepancies, especially in sentence structure and grammar, quickly became noticeable. The tables below illustrate each step in this process, demonstrating how the original sentences change throughout the course of these translations.

Example 1:

StepSentence / Translation
Original sentenceThe brisk October weather marked that football season was in full effect. Many fans grabbed their favorite team’s gear, headed to the game, and enjoyed a wonderful day of tailgating.
Automatic translation service into SpanishEl tiempo paso ligero de octubre marcó que la temporada de fútbol fue en pleno efecto. Muchos fans agarraron engranajes de su equipo favorito, se dirigió a la mesa y disfrutaron de un maravilloso día de chupar rueda.
Automatic translation service back to EnglishWeather brisk October marked the football season was in full effect. Many fans grabbed gear of their favorite team, went to the table, and enjoyed a wonderful day of tailgating.

Example 2:

StepSentence / Translation
Original sentence“The local farmers are concerned that the recent drought will adversely affect their crops and livelihoods.”
Automatic translation service into German“Die lokalen Bauern sind besorgt, dass die jüngste Dürre ihre Ernten und Lebensunterhalt negativ beeinflussen wird.”
Automatic translation service back to English“The place peasants are nervous that the last dryness their harvests and life subsistence negative influence will.”

As you can see, the quality of automatic translations is inconsistent and often falls short of expectations. Not only do these translations suffer from poor sentence structure and grammar, but they also risk altering the original meaning, potentially misleading readers, or conveying incorrect information. While convenient, such services are unreliable for preserving the essence of important text. One time the translation may be adequate, but the next it could be entirely incomprehensible. This underscores the limitations and risks of relying solely on automatic translation services.

student-using-translation-plagiarism-doesn't-know that-result-may-be-incorrect

Detection of translation plagiarism

Instant translation programs are becoming increasingly popular for their convenience and speed. However, they are far from perfect. Here are some areas where they often fall short:

  • Poor sentence structure. The translations frequently result in sentences that don’t make much sense in the target language.
  • Grammar issues. Automatic translations tend to produce text with grammatical errors that a native speaker would not make.
  • Idiomatic errors. Phrases and idioms often don’t translate well, leading to awkward or misleading sentences.

Individuals sometimes use these automatic translation systems to engage in “translation plagiarism.” While these systems convey the basic message adequately, they struggle with exact language matching. New detection methods are being introduced that leverage multiple resources to identify potentially plagiarized work.

As of now, there are no reliable methods for spotting translation plagiarism. However, solutions will surely emerge shortly. Researchers at our platform Plag are trying several new approaches, and great progress is being made. Don’t leave translation plagiarism in your assignments—it may become detectable at the very moment that you submit your paper.



Translation plagiarism is a growing concern that takes advantage of the weaknesses in automatic translation services. While these services may be convenient, they are far from reliable, often distorting original meanings and leading to grammatical errors. Current plagiarism detectors are still progressing to catch this new form of copying, so it’s a risky try on all fronts. It’s recommended to be careful when using automatic translations for critical or ethical reasons.

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