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March 26, 2008

Google to Add Language Translation in Gmail

ComputerWorld reports that Google intends to integrate its language translation service in Gmail and Google Talk. There are already bots that could facilitate an IM conversation with a person that speaks a language you don't know, but it would be much better to have the feature built in. Even if the translation is far from perfect and often incoherent, you'll understand the main ideas.

"What you need for real-time automated machine translation is large amounts of compute power, which we have, and large amounts of data, which we have. Imagine a system that can do on-the-fly translation of things like e-mail, documents and IM chat. That's a feature you can see on the horizon," said Google's Matt Glotzbach.

Apparently, Google is also developing tools for videoconferencing "to augment internal training programs and to serve as a hosted alternative to pricey videoconferencing software". Last year, Google acquired Marratech's video conferencing software.

In the past few years, Google started to preannounce features and services, but they were either released late or not released at all. We're still waiting for phone calls in Google Talk, tasks in Google Calendar, Gmail folders, Knol, Google Health.


  1. Weren't most of these leaked, instead of formally announced?

  2. On first glance, this idea sounds cool .. but if you stop and think for a second, who would actually receive emails in languages they don't understand? For me, if someone sends me an email in Hindu .. it is either spam or I wasn't the intended receiver .. it just doesn't make much sense to me ..

  3. Exactly, Keith!

    But it would sure be a cool feature to see related text advertising to the advertised Russian or Indian product ;)

  4. Relocation would Áð.

    Did you understand the main ideas?

    I guess not.

    This was the translation of a simple Russian phrase: "Перевод будет совершенно паршивым." A human translation to English would be: "The translation would be perfectly crappy."

    So ... well ... Google's translation software is crap. In Google's place i would be really ashamed to release a product of such quality even as a beta.

    Google translation software is crap, because all translation software is crap. There seems to be a huge gap between linguists and programmers who write linguistic software. Google for some reason think that they can translate language using statistics instead of grammar. They are very wrong.

  5. True you may not have any friends who speak another language than you. But lets say you take a trip to Israel and make a friend or two. While most Israelis speak fluent English, Hebrew is their natural language and they are generally more comfortable speaking/writing in Hebrew. So now (thanks to Google) they can write you in Hebrew and you don't have to wonder what they are saying. And if they use gmail as well you can reply in English and not worry that they won't understand.

    -- it will be interesting to see if the tool recognizes different languages within the same email and translates them all to the standard language. What if I receive a message that includes Spanish and German. (While this may not be as a likely a scenario it is still possible)

  6. Are we STILL going on about "folders" in GMail. I'm still at a loss as to why this is such a big thing.

    If they really wanted to implement them it's easy. Add a preference to disallow multiple labels and provide a new language option that has "folder" instead of "label" in the interface. Oh, and maybe put some little icons on there.

  7. I got an email the other day in another language (non-spam) and Google showed me related adverts in that language.

    Thought it was kinda cool, though kinda annoying since they weren't relevant to me really.

  8. << Are we STILL going on about "folders" in GMail. I'm still at a loss as to why this is such a big thing. >>

    Google promised it will add folderish features to labels. To make the labels more like folders, Google only needs to add the option to label a conversation using drag-and-drop. Optionally, drag-and-drop should also archive the conversation. The problem with labels is that people don't find them intuitive and you need to perform two actions to categorize a conversation: label and archive.

  9. a frustrated studentMarch 31, 2008 at 8:30 PM

    Yea, but when are we going to be able to insert images into Gmail? It's so annoying that I can't insert formulas and figures! You'd think they would have integrated something this simple by now.

  10. @a frustrated student said...

    Agreed, we need to complain as loudly as possible that I can't just put html in email! I don't care about corresponding via machine translation when I can't send my mother a lolcat!

  11. << Yea, but when are we going to be able to insert images into Gmail? >>

    You can attach the images, like any other files. If you want to add images that are available online, you can just copy and paste them in Gmail's editor. Make sure you copy the image and some text from the page.

  12. Vmaviliactatgmaildotcom says: I would be happy to re-subscribe if someone would tell me How to quickly translate incoming non-English text to English and respond "QUICKLY". Does feature exist? COMMENT: With the exception of this "NEED" the service is great.

  13. Step 1: Copy text
    Step 2:
    Step 3: Choose languages and paste
    Step 4: Done

  14. I think this is a great idea. I have kids who have made foreign friends on many camping trips throughout europe and they are all helping each other to learn different languages by writing in the other persons first spoken language and then to also add the native translation at the end.

    So for instance my girls write to their friends in either german, dutch, french, italian or spanish and put the original english at the end and their friends do the opposite. A quick translation tool would be really useful like this.

    I teach them that it is nieve to expect everyone to speak english so we should make an effort to communicate in their native tongue.

  15. I have been writing a lady in the Ukrain who speeks no english i speeck no Ukranian .And we can,t efford the constant cost of translation day in and day out .and i have deen searching for a ukranian key board where by i can use the curent language tool translate then retype in ukanian .Its not alot of work if you love each other but Googles could help .

  16. It can be usefull for crazy shoppers like me, I recently ordered something online but unfortunately the only place I could find it that didn't look like some dodgy back ally website was (German Amazon), I know enough german to get my by, and I used the google translate tool for the rest, but then they obviously send the confirmation and shipping emails in German, having the ability to translate in Gmail would be brilliant!

  17. I think thats a great move as in this increasingly integrated world need for such service is going to be felt more and more. The only problem with using language translaters is that they sometime fail to catch the real meaning of a phrase or idiom and just translate literally.

  18. This is a great idea, it will make conversing with people who don't speak much English easier.

  19. We have never used gmail but know that just about everyone loves it.