Translation 27. Google Translate: Present State and Ongoing Research

ProZ.com is a large online site for professional translators and interpreters. It claims 300,000 members in 190 countries. In a recent newsletter, ProZ announced a new translating blogsite for members and ProZ member RominaZ posted this link to a recent article by Chris Griffiths on Google’s admission that its free online Translation service – which is very widely used and extremely useful for getting a rough idea of foreign language content – still has some way to go before being ready for “sensitive debates”.

Following up one of several links attached to the Griffiths’ article reveals further information from Murad Ahmed on the present state of Google’s massive translation operations and its ongoing research for improvements and extended uses.

Ahmed quotes the leader of Google’s translation team, Dr Franz Och:
“Like much else at Google, the solution to the problem lies in number-crunching. Google is trying to turn language into a mathematical problem. Its “machine translation” system analyses millions of different texts on the web, learning the laws and exceptions of a language and applying these rules to its translations.

“The way we are doing it is to learn from vast amounts of data,” Franz Och, the research scientist who leads Google’s translation team, said. “Our system is learning to mimic what human translators do … the quality of our translation is getting better.”

Ahmed also offers this interesting Google research news:
“As well as perfecting the system, Google is building devices that can make it more useful. Last year, Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive, demonstrated a device on which people can take picture of foreign text on a mobile phone – a road sign or a restaurant menu – and get a near-instant translation of it.

“When asked what was next in store for the technology, Mr Schmidt said: “Google can translate 100 languages to 100 languages, so why can’t I just speak on the phone to someone who doesn’t speak my language? Well, we’re not quite there yet, but it’s coming soon.”
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For a basic explanation of the Statistical Machine Translation method (SMT) favoured by Google (which is based on the statistical analysis of large bilingual corpora), see hubpages.com.

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