Google Translate has become an indispensable tool in the day-to-day lives of many millions of people. It is built into Google products and we all take for granted the effortless ease with which it is used. Although it is not a means to translate professional content or important documents, it certainly helps to clarify words or phrases in a pinch. These are a few things about Google Translate that you might not know.
1: GOOGLE TRANSLATE IS UNINTENTIONALLY FUNNY
Translating involves interpreting, and the lack of Google’s nuance can make for a good giggle. Sometimes the machine translation some fabulous faux pas and is so literal, it doesn’t know it is being positively Wodehousian. Such unintended hijinx on a web page will just seem like a bad mistake to any prospective customers. Even Google knows this and doesn’t use Translate for its own projects. Human translators and interpreters are still the best way to make sure your message is heard precisely in other languages.
2: ITS NUMBERS ARE OFF THE CHARTS
When Google released Translate circa 2006, the number of users was in the hundreds. Today, the service translates 100 billion words per day – that is roughly 128,000 bibles worth for over 500 million people (and growing). That is roughly the population of the European Union.
3: IT MAKES UNDERSTANDING EASY
Apps make translating on the run a no-brainer. The Translate app from Android can translate between 90 supported languages without using data. The Word Lens app can translate words that appear in pictures. Can’t figure out what that sign says? Take a pic and translate. These powerful tools combined with creative MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) make mutual understanding for business or pleasure super easy.
4: IT IS AN AI (ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE)
It has the predominant AI capability. It can learn. Not in any Skynet sense where it lurks red-eyed waiting to subdue humanity (maybe). It learns from its mistakes. Since the introduction of Neural Machine Translation in September 2016, Translate can now respond in a more accurate and context-appropriate way. Using “zero shot” translations, it has determined the parameters of a multilingual system and has identified universal translation knowledge. This way, translations are being made from and into languages that the NMT hasn’t directly learned.
5: ITS AI IMPROVED THINGS DRAMATICALLY
When the Google Brain team renovated Translate, enhancements appeared immediately. There were more improvements made to performance overnight than had occurred over the whole previous 10 years.
6: IT IS GRACIOUS IN THE FACE OF CRITICISM
You can help Google Translate evolve by reporting bad translations. The improvements made help the software get closer to interpreting, rather than directly translating. The greater the volume of reference material, the more nuanced and properly localized translations can become. The trajectory of this concept leads to colloquial customization for all translations into and out of any language in the world.
7: IT HAS CHANGED ONLINE SHOPPING FOREVER
Google translate has been a godsend to the international shopper. When websites in different languages are understandable enough for confident window shopping, every corner of the Earth becomes accessible.
8: IT IS GROWING & GROWING
When it launched, Google Translate offered two languages: English and Arabic. Today, there are reliable translations for over 100 supported languages – more than enough for the ardent or novice traveler and any day-to-day multilingual needs. The most requested languages are from English into Indonesian, Arabic, Portuguese, and Russian. It is certainly super convenient, but it isn’t a good idea to trust Google Translate completely just yet.
9: IT WORKS BETTER WITH EUROPEAN LANGUAGES
European Union and United Nations documents are part of the massive database of already translated reference material. Mining these millions of pages for patterns is part of Translate’s “learning” process. Other references include the Bible because it has been translated into nearly every language. See also: mystery novels.
10: IT IS A GLIMPSE OF THE NEAR FUTURE
A machine capable of generating its own set of concepts and applying them autonomously is one of the hallmarks of a true AI. Google Translate has developed its own universal translation language which is not only an unforeseen benefit of coding, it is a positive indication that machines can learn and create novel responses to problem-solving. Rather than exhibiting traditional computer programming, it is “machine learning.”