Google has visions of instant online translation

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Whilst Google’s current translation service is passable, it can give some bizarre results, such is the nature of automated translation tools.

Nevertheless, their vision of the future is to have documents instantly translatable into the world’s major languages using simply machine logic.

The visionary system is supposed to work by supplying it with documents already translated into two languages and then get the computers to discern patterns to use for future translations.

This ‘statistical machine translation’ doesn’t rely directly on language experts, grammatical rules, and dictionaries, as existing systems do, though of course there has to be a ready supply of translated documents.

The system will certainly need some training, and it’s not perfect, still producing slightly awkward translations. However, it may be adequate for many general translation uses, providing that users trust its output. It’s one thing for a translation to be a little awkward to read; quite another for it to give inaccurate or misleading information.

Perhaps in line with Google’s “don’t be evil” mantra, CEO Eric Schmidt can see opportunities for diverse communities, separated by language, to understand one another more easily.

“Many, many societies have operated in language-defined communities where they really don’t understand and are not particularly sympathetic to other peoples’ views because of the barrier of language. We’re about to have that breakthrough and it is a huge thing,” he said.

The original article at Reuters in a good read.

Andy Merrett