Google Adds Auto-Translation To Docs

Google translates documents using the company's machine translation, while preserving formatting and layout.
Google added automatic translations for 42 languages in its online document collaboration service.

The new Google Docs tool, launched Thursday, leverages the company's translation system, which applies statistical learning techniques to build a translation model out of billions of words of text.

To launch the feature, users only have to click on "translate document" from the "tools" menu. The document is then translated into the target language, and users have the option of replacing the original document with translation or making a new translated version.

The tool preserves all the formatting and layout of the original document, but that actual translation may be rough. "Translations aren't perfect, but we are continuously working on improving translation quality over time," Rita Chen, an associate product manager, said on the Google Blog.

Automatic translation, also called machine translation, is often used on corporate intranets for multilingual collaboration among employees. The technology is often applied to e-mails, Web pages, presentations and corporate documentation.

In June, Systran, a language translation provider, unveiled a hybrid machine translation server that combines rule-based machine translation and statistical machine translations. By combining self-learning and linguistic technologies, the Systran Hybrid MT server lets users customize translation programs to fit particular needs.

In March 2008, Google launched for third-party developers a language application programming interface that can be incorporated in Web applications. Using the API, applications can detect and translate blocks of text in a blog or other Web page using Javascript. Google offers a developers guide for the technology.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on Google's upcoming Chrome OS. Download the report here (registration required).