A long, long, it-feels-like-forever, time ago, Anna covered the story that there were a lack of good translations tools available on the internet, and especially in languages like Russian. In that article, she linked to an article that showed Google had developed a much better translations service, but hadn’t released it to the general public. Well, I’m always interested in closing loops, and so I’m happy to report that Google just announced that their, much improved, translation service is now live at Google Translates.
What makes Google’s service interesting is that it doesn’t use the standard “rule-based” translation methods, but rather, it is much more statistical in nature:
We feed the computer with billions of words of text, both monolingual text in the target language, and aligned text consisting of examples of human translations between the languages. We then apply statistical learning techniques to build a translation model.
Anna and I couldn’t help but to try the service out, so we choose a Russian news site: pravda.ru and the results were pretty impressive (pravda.ru in English) as I could definitely pick up almost every story.
My take is that the translation of websites is only the beginning for Google… Not only will they improve the translations (especially if enough users adopt their feature to “recommend” a better translation directly through the tool), but I can easily see a day in the not-too-distant future when this tool is built right into gmail or google chat. This could make it extremely easy to have an online conversation with someone who doesn’t even speak your language.
In my family this could be very useful as my wife’s parents do not speak much English (and I don’t speak much of their native Russian). At this point that means that my wife has to translate everything that is said between us. What if instead, I could simple email them (in English), but it would arrive with an accurate translation in Russian? The result is that it would actually be easier for us to share stories over email or chat then in person!
From a business perspective, the possibilities are fascinating… Why not translate an entire website (Welcome to “Дождь город