Is Google the best free translation tool online?

In my opinion, yes.  Google has an amazing ability to search and compare a whole lot more data than any other company in the business, and offers translations between a lot more languages.  Read on for some history and some interesting possible applications.

In a meeting at Google in 2004, the discussion turned to an e-mail message the company had received from a fan in South Korea. Sergey Brin, a Google founder, ran the message through an automatic translation service that the company had licensed.

The message said Google was a favorite search engine, but the result read: “The sliced raw fish shoes it wishes. Google green onion thing”

Brin said Google ought to be able to do better. Six years later, its free Google Translate service handles 52 languages, more than any similar system, and people use it hundreds of millions of times a week to translate Web pages and other text.

“What you see on Google Translate is state of the art” in computer translations that are not limited to a particular subject area, said Alon Lavie, an associate research professor in the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University.

The network of data centers that it built for Web searches may now be, when lashed together, the world’s largest computer. Google is using that machine to push the limits on translation technology. Last month, for example, it said it was working to combine its translation tool with image analysis, allowing a person to, say, take a cell phone photo of a menu in German and get an instant English translation.

The concept of getting instant translation of a picture you take with a mobile phone is phenomenal, and it doesn’t seem like it will be too far away.

In the meantime, the headline of the original article could have done with a rewrite: “Google’s computer might betters translation tool” has tripped up a few people I’ve shared the article with.  The use of the word might (here used as a noun) has turned it into a garden path sentence.  When you read the first half of the sentence, you think that Google’s computer might do something, but then you get to ‘betters’ and think…what?

Source: CNET News.

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