Google Translate

Google Translate: Google Translate is a multi-lingual translation tool by Google, Inc.

What is Google Translate?

Google Translate is a translation tool provided by Google. Google Translate translates text from one language to another. It supports ‘dozens of languages.’ As of August 2013, Google Translate supports and translates into 71 different languages. It mainly utilizes machine-translation for this, which means that the text is automatically translated by the APIs, as opposed to the traditional way of human translation.

How is Google Translate used?

Google Translate is a translation tool that users can use to translate phrases, sentences and even paragraphs from one language to another. The website has two text boxes, the left one which is used by the user to input the text to be translated, and the right one which generates the translated text.

The user can paste words, phrases, sentences or paragraphs to the left text box. The user can then select the language of the text to be translated and the language in which the text needs to be translated. Another option is the “Detect Language.” A user can use this option, especially if he or she does not know the language which the text is in. The Detect Language option automatically translates the text to English; however this option can be changed in order to translate the text to another language.

Google Translate can also be used to translate whole webpages into the languages required.

How does Google Translate work?

Google Translate best explains how it works:

“When Google Translate generates a translation, it looks for patterns in hundreds of millions of documents to help decide on the best translation for you. By detecting patterns in documents that have already been translated by human translators, Google Translate can make intelligent guesses as to what an appropriate translation should be. This process of seeking patterns in large amounts of text is called "statistical machine translation". Since the translations are generated by machines, not all translation will be perfect. The more human-translated documents that Google Translate can analyse in a specific language, the better the translation quality will be. This is why translation accuracy will sometimes vary across languages.”

 What are some of the features of Google Translate?

Google Translate has a list of the following features:

  • Detect Language: automatically detects the language that the text is in and translates it into English.
  • Read text phonetically: allows the user to read the translated text using Roman characters, i.e. English.
  • Input text phonetically: allows users to input text for translation in languages such as Russian, Hindi, Serbian, Greek, Arabic, Persian or Urdu, as they sound in English. Is only available for certain languages.
  • Text-To-Speech system (TTS): provides a machine-generated spoken version of the translation. Is only available for certain languages.
  • Alternate translations: allows the user to select alternate words for certain translated words, especially for technical terms. This selection is then taken into consideration for future updates to the translation process.

What are some of the criticisms faced by Google Translate?

Google Translate has been criticized by some for not providing accurate translations. It does, however, help the reader understand the general content of a foreign language text, which many claim is more than enough.

It has been noted, that Google Translate works better for certain languages than others. This is especially true of Latin based languages, specifically those of Europe.  Google Translate has been noted to perform well especially when English is the target language and the source language is one of the European Union languages. Analyses have found French to English and Italian to English to be relatively good.

Furthermore, people note that the translations seem to work better if the content to be translated is shorter, rather than longer. This is especially relevant for Chinese to English translations. However, this is mainly true for generally all rule-based machine translations. Hence, it is hardly fair to criticize Google Translate for it. 

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