Posted August 28, 2009 2:34 pm by with 6 comments

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Google continues to work on its machine translation—both the quality of the translations and the number of their products using it. In the last year, they’ve added translation to the Google Toolbar and Google Reader, and now Google Docs joins the translating fold.

To translate a document into one of the 42 offered languages, open it and go to Tools>Translate document.


In the official announcement on the Google Blog, Associate Product Manager Intern Rita Chen recognizes that machine translation still has a long way to go. However, I’m happy to report that there have been some improvements, at least since Google Reader got its translation feature.

I used a bilingual blog to test GR’s translator. I took the translated posts to compare the translation quality:

Google Reader translation, 11 Nov 2008 The last time I drew one of these kiosks to buy you a coffee without getting in the car was not stopped anyone to buy anything. But this time I was lucky and it went through two cars, which is in the parking lot of North Sound Vineyard Church.
Google Docs translation, 29 August 2009 The last time I drew one of these kiosks to buy a coffee without get off the car did not stop anyone to buy anything. But this time I was lucky and two cars passed by it, which is in the parking lot of North Sound Vineyard Church.
Blogger Gabriel Campanario’s original English version Last time I sketched one of these drive-thru coffee kiosks nobody stopped to buy any drinks. I lucked out this time and two cars went by this one, which is on the parking lot of the North Sound Vineyard Church.

Obviously, there is still a long way to go to get machine translation, but the last nine months have shown at least a little improvement in the automatic translation.

But here’s the real question: can you understand this translation?

On Friday the paper would not normally go up in the afternoon because I work different hours. People on the bus tends to be younger, most students who go to the campus of the University of Washington. ¶ While he was on the bus I thought about doing this drawing bad luck that Halloween has fallen on a Friday this year. I missed the trick or treating with my kids. My consolation is that at home we seem to be on Halloween from a month ago, when my child who is 3 years old, began to get all their costumes all hours of the day: bee, dragon and tiger, which is the that was the end. My child, who is 5 years old, disguised himself as a Transformer, which is called Optimus Prime. (Gabriel Campanario’s original English version)

  • For the translation EFFICIENT would be to add the feelings of human beings to computers, it is clear that everything has a beginning, by using clear words we farmers of the letters and read words wrong. Imagine the rest.

  • Steve Kaplan

    Completely useless for marketing professionals, and you have just proved it in your post. Machine translation is still far far from being satisfactory or even good. Imagine what a customer would say, or a visitor to your website think about your brand … If I want to translate my documents for “real” purposes I prefer using paid websites like (I work with them for one year already and I’m very satisfied). I don’t think Google will be able to solve localization problems during my lifetime. It involves complex context problems.

  • Jim

    I use Google for all unofficial translations and for official ones. Both keep adding new features and providing the best services

  • @Steve—Yeah, I have a degree in Linguistics, so I’ve worked quite a bit with machine translation. I was impressed that there were any improvements at all since the Google Reader translation feature came out—but back in November, only 25% of the posts were even intelligible (and 38% didn’t even get translated!). I still had people celebrating the feature as if it had broken the barrier and “at least you’ll get the gist of most of them.”

    That was kind of the point of putting up the last translation without any explanation—can we really get the gist of these things?

  • That’s a very usefull tool. However when translating to my language (Portuguese) it does a lot os mistakes. But better than nothing.

  • GoogleGirl

    I have been talking to Google about their updates to Translation and although they have not yet launched the updates I think you all will become more impressed. I signed an NDA so there are no specifics I can give.. but it will be more valuable to marketers both online and offline.