Type of site
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, AOL, and Yahoo. Since October 2007, Google Translate has used proprietary, in-house technology based on statistical machine translation instead.
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.
The company stated in 2013 that it served 200 million people daily.
- 1 Features
- 2 Limitations
- 3 Supported languages
- 4 Languages not yet supported by Google Translate
- 5 Translation methodology
- 6 Open-source licenses and components
- 7 Reviews
- 8 Translate Community
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Google Translate 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. 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 are 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. In 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.
Google Translate is available in some browsers as an extension which can translate.
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 translation for Android contains two main options: "SMS translation" and "History".
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 application supports 80 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.
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.
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. The official iOS app for Google Translate was released February 8, 2011. 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.
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 to 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. These nuances require some contextual understanding and feeling, something which no automatic translation tool can achieve because it would essentially have to think like a person. The alternative view is that there are simple grammatical rules which could easily be incorporated into the software to improve matters. The reason for Google Translate's apparent "lack of humanity" is its methodology (see below) which was devised (and championed by) Franz Josef Och who was a computer scientist rather than a linguist. 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 the Google translator 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 lsland; 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.
- 1st stage
- 2nd stage
- 3rd stage
- 4th stage
- 5th stage (launched April 28, 2006)
- 6th stage (launched December 16, 2006)
- 7th stage (launched February 9, 2007)
- 8th stage (launched October 22, 2007)
- English to and from Dutch
- English to and from Greek
- all 25 language pairs use Google's machine translation system
- 9th stage
- 10th stage (as of this stage, translation can be done between any two languages, using English as an intermediate step, if needed) (launched May 8, 2008)
- 11th stage (launched September 25, 2008)
- 12th stage (launched January 30, 2009)
- 13th stage (launched June 19, 2009)
- 14th stage (launched August 24, 2009)
- 15th stage (launched November 19, 2009)
- The Beta stage is finished. Users can now choose to have the romanization written for Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Greek, Hindi and Thai. For translations from Arabic, Persian and Hindi, the user can enter a Latin transliteration of the text and the text will be transliterated to the native script for these languages as the user is typing. The text can now be read by a text-to-speech program in English, Italian, French and German
- 16th stage (launched January 30, 2010)
- 17th stage (launched April 2010)
- Speech program launched in Hindi and Spanish
- 18th stage (launched May 5, 2010)
- Speech program launched in Afrikaans, Albanian, Catalan, Chinese (Mandarin), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Latvian, Macedonian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Vietnamese and Welsh (based in eSpeak).
- 19th stage (launched May 13, 2010)
- 20th stage (launched June 2010)
- 21st stage (launched September 2010)
- 22nd stage (launched December 2010)
- Romanization of Arabic removed.
- Spell check added.
- For some languages, Google replaced text-to-speech synthesizers from eSpeak's robot voice to native speaker's nature voice technologies made by SVOX (Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Turkish). Also the old versions of French, German, Italian and Spanish. Latin uses the same synthesizer as Italian.
- Speech program launched in Arabic, Japanese, and Korean.
- 23rd stage (launched January 2011)
- Choice of different translations for a word.
- 24th stage (Launched June 2011)
- 25th stage (launched July 2011)
- Translation rating introduced.
- 26th stage (launched January 2012)
- Dutch male voice synthesizer replaced with female.
- Elena by SVOX replaced the Slovak eSpeak voice.
- Transliteration of Yiddish added.
- 27th stage (launched February 2012)
- Speech program launched in Thai.
- Esperanto added.
- 28th stage (launched September 2012)
- Lao added.
- 30th stage (launched October 2012)
- New speech program launched in English
- 31st stage (launched November 2012)
- New speech program in French, Spanish, Italian, and German
- 32nd stage (launched March 2013)
- Phrasebook added.
- 33rd stage (launched April 2013)
- Khmer added.
- 35th stage (launched May 2013)
- 16 additional languages can be used with camera-input: Bulgarian, Catalan, Danish, Estonian, Finnish, Croatian, Hungarian, Indonesian, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Latvian, Norwegian, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, and Swedish.
- 37th stage (launched June 2014)
- Definition of words added.
- 38th stage (launched December 2014)
- 39th stage (will be launched June 2015)
Languages not yet supported by Google Translate
Languages not yet supported by Google Translate, but in process.
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 all 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);
- Slovak (sk ↔ cs ↔ 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 a 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.
Open-source licenses and components
|Albanian||Albanet||CC-BY 3.0/GPL 3|
|Arabic||Arabic Wordnet||CC-BY-SA 3|
|Hindi||IIT Bombay Wordnet||Indo Wordnet|
|Farsi/Persian||Persian Wordnet||Free to Use|
|French||WOLF (WOrdnet Libre du Français)||CeCILL-C|
|Catalan||Multilingual Central Repository||CC-BY-3.0|
|Galilean||Multilingual Central Repository||CC-BY-3.0|
|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 rather than a dictionary/grammar rules approach, 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. Also, for the speech, it uses only European French as well as Latin American Spanish worldwide, but both Portugal and Brazilian Portuguese (European for translate.google.pt and Brazilian for all other Google Translate sites).
Google has been accused of sexism due to the statistical assignment of gender when translating from or through English into languages where verbs are conjugated by gender. For example, the phrase I drive used to be translated into a masculine conjugation, while I cook into a feminine conjugation, due to the higher occurrence of such forms in corpora. Due to public criticism in Israel, Google has manually fixed some apparent cases of sexist translation into Hebrew by using the masculine form for all verbs.
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
- Babel Fish (website)
- Bing Translator
- Comparison of machine translation applications
- Google Dictionary
- Google Text-to-Speech
- List of Google services and tools
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- "Subjunctive Mood". Twitter. Subjunctive Mood. 5:40 PM - 15 May 2013. Retrieved 2015-03-21. Check date values in:
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- SVOX[dead link]
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- French to Russian translation translates the untranslated non-French word "obvious" from pivot (intermediate) English to Russian le mot 'obvious' n'est pas français → "очевидными" слово не французское
- We pretend that this English article is German when asking Google to translate it to French. Google, because it does not find the English words in the German dictionary, leaves those words unchanged as one can show it with this spelllling misssstake. But it translates them to French nonetheless. That's because Google translates German → English → French and that the unchanged English words undergo the second translation. The word "außergewöhnlich" however will be translated twice.
- "Google Translate performs two-step translation through English" (PDF). Retrieved December 22, 2011.
- "Wrong translation to Ukrainian language because going through both Russian and English". google.com.
- Google Translation mixes up "tu" and plural or polite "vous" Je vous aime. Tu es ici. You are here. → Я люблю тебя. Вы здесь. Вы здесь.
- Google seeks world of instant translations (Reuters)
- Google was an official sponsor of the annual Computational Linguistics in Japan Conference ("Gengoshorigakkai") in 2007. Google also sent a delegate to the meeting of the members of the Computational Linguistic Society of Japan in March 2005, promising funding to researchers who would be willing to share text data.
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