Type of site
|Statistical machine translation|
|Available in||103 languages, see supported languages|
|Users||Over 200+ million people.|
|Launched||April 28, 2006rule-based machine translation)
October 22, 2007 (as statistical machine translation)
Google Translate is a free multilingual statistical machine translation service provided by Google to translate text, speech, images, or real-time video from one language into another. It offers a web interface, mobile interfaces for Android and iOS, and an API that developers can use to build browser extensions, applications and other software. As of May 2016, Google Translate supports 103 languages at various levels and serves over 200 million people daily.
- 1 Features
- 2 Supported languages
- 3 Translation methodology
- 4 Limitations
- 5 Keyboard shortcuts
- 6 Open-source licenses and components
- 7 Reviews
- 8 Translate Community
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
For some languages, Google Translate can pronounce translated text, highlight corresponding words and phrases in the source and target text, and act as a simple dictionary for single-word input. If "Detect language" is selected, text in an unknown language can be identified.
In the web interface, users can suggest alternate translations, such as for technical terms, or correct mistakes. These suggestions may be included in future updates to the translation process. If a user enters a URL in the source text, Google Translate will produce a hyperlink to a machine translation of the website. For some languages, text can be entered via an on-screen keyboard, handwriting recognition, or speech recognition. It is possible to enter searches in a source language that are first translated to a destination language allowing one to browse and interpret results from the selected destination language in the source language.
Google Translate is available in some browsers as an extension which can run the translation engine.
The application supports 90 languages and can translate 37 languages via photo, 32 via voice in conversation mode, and 27 via real-time video in augmented reality mode.
An early 2011 version supported Conversation Mode when translating between English and Spanish (in alpha testing). This interface within Google Translate allows users to communicate fluidly with a nearby person in another language. In October 2011 it was expanded to 14 languages.
The 'Camera input' functionality allows users to take a photograph of a document, signboard, etc. Google Translate recognises the text from the image using optical character recognition (OCR) technology and gives the translation. Camera input is not available for all languages.
In January 2015, the application gained the ability to translate text in real time using the device's camera, as a result of Google's acquisition of the Word Lens app. The speed and quality of real-time video translation (augmented reality) feature were further enhanced in July 2015 with the release of a new implementation that utilizes convolutional neural networks.
Google Translate is available as a free downloadable application for Android OS users. The first version was launched in January 2010. It works simply like the browser version. Google Translate for Android contains two main options: "SMS translation" and "History".
The application supports 90 languages and voice input for 15 languages. It is available for devices running Android 2.1 and above and can be downloaded by searching for "Google Translate" in Google Play. It was first released in January 2010, with an improved version available on January 12, 2011.
Latest version: 2.0.0 build 42.
In August 2008, Google launched a Google Translate HTML5 web application for iOS for iPhone and iPod Touch users, and the iOS app was released on February 8, 2011. The current Google Translate app is compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch updated to iOS 7.0+. It accepts voice input for 15 languages and allows translation of a word or phrase into one of more than 50 languages. Translations can be spoken out loud in 23 different languages.
Latest version: 4.0.0 (July 29, 2015)
On May 26, 2011, Google announced that the Google Translate API for software developers had been deprecated and would cease functioning on December 1, 2011, "due to the substantial economic burden caused by extensive abuse." Because the API was used in numerous third-party websites, this decision led some developers to criticize Google and question the viability of using Google APIs in their products. In response to public pressure, Google announced on June 3, 2011, that the API would continue to be available as a paid service.
- Haitian Creole
- Kurdish (Kurmanji)
- Myanmar (Burmese)
- Scots Gaelic
Languages in development
These languages are not yet supported by Google Translate, but are available in the Translate Community.
Google Translate does not apply grammatical rules, since its algorithms are based on statistical analysis rather than traditional rule-based analysis. The system's original creator, Franz Josef Och, has criticized the effectiveness of rule-based algorithms in favor of statistical approaches. It is based on a method called statistical machine translation, and more specifically, on research by Och who won the DARPA contest for speed machine translation in 2003. Och was the head of Google's machine translation group until leaving to join Human Longevity, Inc. in July 2014.
Google Translate does not translate from one language to another (L1 → L2). Instead, it often translates first to English and then to the target language (L1 → EN → L2). However, because English, like all human languages, is ambiguous and depends on context, this can cause translation errors. For example, translating vous from French to Russian gives vous → you → ты OR Bы/вы. If Google were using an unambiguous, artificial language as the intermediary, it would be vous → you → Bы/вы OR tu → thou → ты. Such a suffixing of words disambiguates their different meanings. Hence, publishing in English, using unambiguous words, providing context, using expressions such as "you all" often make a better one-step translation.
The following languages do not have a direct Google translation to or from English. These languages are translated through the indicated intermediate language (which in most cases is closely related to the desired language but more widely spoken) in addition to through English:
- Belarusian (be ↔ ru ↔ en ↔ other);
- Catalan (ca ↔ es ↔ en ↔ other);
- Galician (gl ↔ pt ↔ en ↔ other);
- Haitian Creole (ht ↔ fr ↔ en ↔ other);
- Korean (ko ↔ jp ↔ en ↔ other);
- Slovak (sk ↔ cz ↔ en ↔ other);
- Ukrainian (uk ↔ ru ↔ en ↔ other);
- Urdu (ur ↔ hi ↔ en ↔ other).
According to Och, a solid base for developing a usable statistical machine translation system for a new pair of languages from scratch would consist of a bilingual text corpus (or parallel collection) of more than 150-200 million words, and two monolingual corpora each of more than a billion words. Statistical models from these data are then used to translate between those languages.
To acquire this huge amount of linguistic data, Google used United Nations documents. The UN typically publishes documents in all six official UN languages, which has produced a very large 6-language corpus.
Google representatives have been involved with domestic conferences in Japan where Google has solicited bilingual data from researchers.
When Google Translate generates a translation, it looks for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents to help decide on the best translation. By detecting patterns in documents that have already been translated by human translators, Google Translate makes intelligent guesses (AI) as to what an appropriate translation should be.
Before October 2007, for languages other than Arabic, Chinese and Russian, Google Translate was based on SYSTRAN, a software engine which is still used by several other online translation services such as Yahoo! Babel Fish (now defunct). Since October 2007, Google Translate has used proprietary, in-house technology based on statistical machine translation instead.
Google Translate, like other automatic translation tools, has its limitations. The service limits the number of paragraphs and the range of technical terms that can be translated, and while it can help the reader understand the general content of a foreign language text, it does not always deliver accurate translations, and most times it tends to repeat verbatim the same word it's expected to translate. Grammatically, for example, Google Translate struggles to differentiate between imperfect and perfect tenses in Romance languages so habitual and continuous acts in the past often become single historical events. Although seemingly pedantic, this can often lead incorrect results (to a native speaker of for example French and Spanish) which would have been avoided by a human translator. Knowledge of the subjunctive mood is virtually non-existent. Moreover, the informal second person (tu) is often chosen, whatever the context or accepted usage. Since its English reference material contains only "you" forms, it is difficult to translate into a language which has more.
Some languages produce better results than others. Google Translate performs well especially when English is the target language and the source language is from the European Union due to the prominence of translated EU parliament notes. A 2010 analysis indicated that French to English translation is relatively accurate, and 2011 and 2012 analyses showed that Italian to English translation is relatively accurate as well. However, if the source text is shorter, rule-based machine translations often perform better; this effect is particularly evident in Chinese to English translations. While edits of translations may be submitted, in Chinese specifically one is not able to edit sentences as a whole. Instead, one must edit sometimes arbitrary sets of characters, leading to incorrect edits.
Texts written in the Greek, Devanagari, Cyrillic and Arabic scripts can be transliterated automatically from phonetic equivalents written in the Latin alphabet. The browser version of Google Translate provides the read phonetically option for Japanese to English conversion. The same option is not available on the paid API version.
Many of the more popular languages have a "text-to-speech" audio function that is able to read back a text in that language, up to a few dozen words or so. In the case of pluricentric languages, the accent depends on the region: for English, in the Americas, most of the Asia-Pacific and West Asia the audio uses a female General American accent, whereas in Europe, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Guyana and all other parts of the world a female British English accent is used, except for a special Oceania accent used in Australia, New Zealand and Norfolk Island; for Spanish, in the Americas a Latin American Spanish accent is used, while in the other parts of the world a Castilian Spanish accent is used; Portuguese uses a São Paulo accent in the world, except for Portugal, where their native accent is used. Some less widely spoken languages use the open-source eSpeak synthesizer for their speech; producing a robotic, awkward voice that may be difficult to understand.
The Keyboard Shortcuts for Google Translate extension for Google Chrome lets you use the following keyboard shortcuts for Google Translate: 
- alt / ⌥ Option + A → select all
- alt / ⌥ Option + D → delete
- alt / ⌥ Option + L → listen to target translation
- alt / ⌥ Option + ⇧ Shift + L → listen to source translation
Open-source licenses and components
|Albanian||Albanet||CC-BY 3.0/GPL 3|
|Arabic||Arabic Wordnet||CC-BY-SA 3|
|Catalan||Multilingual Central Repository||CC-BY-3.0|
|French||WOLF (WOrdnet Libre du Français)||CeCILL-C|
|Galician||Multilingual Central Repository||CC-BY-3.0|
|Hindi||IIT Bombay Wordnet||Indo Wordnet|
|Persian||Persian Wordnet||Free to Use|
|Spanish||Multilingual Central Repository||CC-BY-3.0|
Shortly after launching the translation service, Google won an international competition for English–Arabic and English–Chinese machine translation.
Translation mistakes and oddities
Since Google Translate uses statistical matching to translate, translated text can often include apparently nonsensical and obvious errors, often swapping common terms for similar but nonequivalent common terms in the other language, as well as inverting sentence meaning.
Translate Community is a platform that is intended to improve Google Translate service. Volunteers can select up to five languages to help in better translation. Users can verify translated phrases and translate phrases in their languages to and from English, helping to improve the accuracy of translating more rare and complex phrases.
- Asia Online
- Comparison of machine translation applications
- Google Dictionary (discontinued)
- Google Text-to-Speech
- Google Translator Toolkit
- Jollo (discontinued)
- List of Google products
- Microsoft Translator
- Word Lens (discontinued; merged into Google Translate app)
- Yahoo! Babel Fish (discontinued; redirects to main Yahoo! site)
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