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December 19, 2007

Translation Service for Google Talk

Google launched translation bots for a lot of language pairs, even more than the ones available at Google Translate. To use them in Google Talk or in any other IM client that supports Jabber, you need to add one of the bots as a friend, start a conversation with the bot and enter the text you want to translate. Google's bots have a simple format for addresses:


For example, if you want to translate text from English to French, you need to add To translate Chinese text in English, add Here's the list of languages pairs and you'll notice many new pairs, displayed in bold below (some of the language pairs were subsequently added in June 2008):

ar2en, en2ar (Arabic<->English)
bg2en, en2bg (Bulgarian<->English)
cs2en, en2cs (Czech <-> English)
da2en, en2da (Danish<->English)
de2en, en2de (German<->English)
de2fr, fr2de (German<->French)
el2en, en2el (Greek<->English)
es2en, en2es (Spanish<->English)
fi2en, en2fi (Finnish<->English)
fr2en, en2fr (French<->English)
hi2en, en2hi (Hindi<->English)
hr2en, en2hr (Croatian<->English)
it2en, en2it (Italian<->English)
ja2en, en2ja (Japanese<->English)
ko2en, en2ko (Korean<->English)
nl2en, en2nl (Dutch<->English)
no2en, en2no (Norwegian<->English)
pl2en, en2pl (Polish<->English)
pt2en, en2pt (Portuguese<->English)
ro2en,en2ro (Romanian<->English)
ru2en, en2ru (Russian<->English)
sv2en, en2sv (Swedish<->English)
zh2en, en2zh (Chinese<->English)
zh-hant2en, en2zh-hant (Traditional Chinese<->English)
zh-hant2zh, zh2zh-hant (Traditional Chinese<->Simplified Chinese)

While this is a great interface for translating short texts (you can access Google Talk from Gmail, from or in many other ways), you can also use the bots to translate conversations in real-time. You need to invite the two corresponding bots in a group chat, so this doesn't work in the desktop client, which still does not support group chats. For some reason, when I invited one of the bots, it was offline, but it still translated my messages.

It would be great if Google adds this as a standard feature of Google Talk and you only need to enter your native language, but the translation quality is not that great and it could cause problems in some situations. The good news is that Google's statistical translation system advances really quickly and you'll see more and more languages pairs in the future.


  1. Any idea how fast the quality of google's machine translation is advancing? That would make a nice follow-up post to the one you linked to.

  2. It's difficult to evaluate a translation system, but we can still look at some simple examples.

    Someone who speaks French well can compare the translation from this screenshot taken in October with the current translation (the original text is from a CNN article).

    "Alimentée par venteux, chaud et sec, plus d'une douzaine de fuites non incendies de forêt fait rage à travers fortement peuplées sud de la Californie, le lundi, forçant plus d'un quart de million de personnes à fuir les maisons qui s'étend de San Diego à la vedette de cinéma hameau de Malibu et le Pittoresque station de montagne de Lake Arrowhead."

    I think Google is doing a much better job.

  3. Great work they did there.

  4. I think this is a pretty cool feature. I work regularly with European partners and we communicate in English. A feature like this could help bridge a language barrier. Unfortunately from a work privacy point of view, we would never use this service unless it was internal.

  5. uk2en, en2uk (Ukrainian<->English) do not answer char invitations - are they available?

  6. bg2en is offline and doesn't translate

  7. invitation fails for the bot ur2en

  8. I really LOVE gmail and Google Talk....You guys rock!!!!

  9. I wonder when/if they are going to add the new language pairs they added to
    I'm very interested in some of them.

  10. There are 26 new bots: bg2en, cs2en, da2en, en2bg, en2cs, en2da, en2fi, en2hi, en2hr, en2no, en2pl, en2pt, en2ro, en2sv, en2zh-hant, fi2en, hi2en, hr2en, no2en, pl2en, pt2en, ro2en, sv2en, zh-hant2en, zh-hant2zh, zh2zh-hant. Here's the complete list.