Launched in 2006, this machine translation tool, competing with Systran (used by other search engines such as Yahoo!) or Reverso, is available in + 100 languages. Its aim is to enable Internet users to access more and more content on the Internet, even if it is not written in their mother tongue.
It is available at translate.google.com.
To develop Google Translation, Google first used bilingual dictionaries. However, this approach, which required a lot of time and resources, was abandoned in favour of the statistical machine translation. The Search Engine was based on the work of Franz-Josef Och, who now runs Google Translation. This linguistic researcher is working on the analysis of millions of “parallel” data (from French to English, German to Chinese, etc.). To do this, Google used United Nations documents, which were therefore translated by human translators: the Search Engine therefore first offered translations in the languages used within the United Nations (UN).
While this approach is efficient and provides a certain accuracy in translation, it does not allow direct access to all languages and dialects, as translations between two little-spoken languages are rare. To switch from Greek to Corsican, for example, you have to use English as an intermediate language.
And for some regional languages such as Breton, it is still not available… Google has not yet amassed enough texts already translated into Breton by reputable organizations to be able to offer it. Its machine learning algorithms require huge amounts of data to learn and reach a sufficient level to be made available.
Google Translation offers 6 ways to communicate in several languages :
- Text input: just use your keyboard.
- Conversation: engage in a bilingual conversation.
- Photos: Translate text visible in images into another language.
- Visual translation: use your phone’s camera to view instant translations.
- Handwriting: Draw letters or characters with your finger.
- Offline: translate text even offline.
While the approach used to develop Google’s translation service is complex, its use is very simple. Simply add a word, a sentence, or even a text containing several hundred words, in the box corresponding to the original language. You then have to choose the language in which the word or text will be translated. It is even possible to listen to the pronunciation of the word to be translated and the translated word in some languages. Google Translation also provides definitions of the word to be translated and synonyms for the proposed translation, also in some languages.
These indications serve to guide the Internet user in his translation by offering him a panel of translations that he can use according to the given context. They address Google Translation’s main shortcoming, which is that they do not take into account the context or the different meanings of a word, thus resulting in inaccurate or even nonsensical translations.
Today, Google’s machine translation service is used by more than two hundred million Internet users and translates in one day the equivalent of the work produced by all the translators in the world in one year (or 1 billion translations, source Amit Singhal).
The tool needs to query Google’s servers and therefore an internet connection But there is a solution! Just download (on your mobile) the languages you are interested in, and it will work even without internet access See below for details.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to use Google Translation on a computer without an Internet connection.
You must first download the languages you are interested in. To avoid charges (data mobile), do it with a WiFi network that doesn’t charge you for the download.
For offline operation :
- Open the Translation application
- On the left or right side of the screen, press the language at the top.
- Press Download ⬇️ next to the desired language. If it is not visible, the language cannot be downloaded.
- When prompted, press Download.
- Next to each language downloaded to your device, a confirmation icon appears ✅.
If your text is more than 5000 characters long, it must be cut into several pieces. The other solution is to import an entire document to be translated.
You can translate documents up to 10 MB in size in the following formats: .doc, .docx, .odf, .pdf, .ppt, .pptx, .ps, .rtf, .txt, .xls and .xlsx.
=> If your document is in Google Docs format (in Google Drive), go to the Tools menu and click on “Translate Document”.
This only works with a medium or large screen (tablet or computer). It is possible that not all the original formatting is preserved in the translation.
- At the top left, click on Documents.
- Locate the file you want to translate.
- To select the translation language, in the upper right corner, click on the down arrow
- Click Translate.
How to translate a web page in Chrome?
To translate a page in Chrome on your computer, simply display a page written in a language other than your browser’s language and click Translate at the top.
If this n’t work right-click anywhere on the page and then click “Translate to [language]”.
On mobile, the link is located at the very bottom.
- On computer, open Chrome.
- In the upper right corner, click on More (in the menu with 3 vertical points) then Settings.
- At the bottom of the page, click Advanced Settings.
- In the “Languages” section, click on Language.
- Check or uncheck “Offer to translate pages that are written in a language I don’t know”.
If you use the Chrome browser it’s easy: click on the “Translate” link at the bottom of the page. To systematically translate the pages written in this language, activate the parameter Always translate pages into [language]. (choose the source language).
If this “Translate” link is missing, go to the bottom right corner and press More (menu with 3 vertical dots) then Translate.
You can also directly use the Google Translation app, available on iOS.
You can use your phone’s camera to translate text in the world around you with the Google Translation application. For example, you can translate signs, panels, brochures, menus or even handwritten notes.
Here’s how to do it on an Android phone or tablet, in the Google Translate app :
If necessary, select the languages at the top of the screen :
- At the top left, choose Detect the language or the language you want to translate.
- At the top right, choose a language you understand.
- Touch Camera
Choose one of the 3 modes :
- Press Instant to translate live text seen through your smartphone’s camera lens
- Press Scanner to take a new picture and translate the text in it and use your finger to highlight the text you want to translate.
- Press Import ️ to choose an existing photo to translate and use your finger to highlight the text you want to translate.
You can translate the text of photos you have already taken, or translate a photo you have just taken with one click.
To translate from one language to another, Google uses multilingual corpora, for example texts translated by the UN into the 6 main languages. When he has enough texts translated from the requested source language into the requested target language, all is well. But when it’s not the case, Google goes through intermediate languages and it gives weird results, even very bad results…
Here are the explanations in video (by a person who works for a human translation service):
The Google Translation mobile application
This service is not only available on the web, it is also available as a mobile app, to download here on Google Play or there on iOS.
Here are the features of this app:
– translations in more than 100 languages
– Google can translate your conversations
– You can talk, type, write or take a picture of the text to be translated
– Translation is available even without an Internet connection, which is very handy when you travel
– You can save your translations to access them from any device
Screenshot on iPhone :
Google Translation on iPhone
Screenshot on iPad :
Google Translation on iPad
The Google Chrome translation extension
This tool is also available asextension to be installed in your Chrome browser: download it here.
Here is an overview of how to use the translation button integrated in Chrome :
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Google Translation Chrome extension makes it easier to translate web pages
You can take advantage of the competition to test others, including Deepl, which has a growing reputation. Here are some links to online translation sites:
- Deepl.com and its Linguee database
This service is available in over 100 languages, including : Afrikaans, Albanian, German, English, Arabic, Armenian, Azeri, Basque, Bengali, Belarusian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cebuano, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Korean, Haitian Creole, Croatian, Danish, Spanish, Esperanto, Estonian, Finnish, French, Galician, Welsh, Georgian, Greek, Gujarati, Hausa, Hebrew, Hindi, Hmong, Hungarian, Igbo, Indonesian, Irish, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Javanese, Kannada, Khmer, Laotian, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malaysian, Maltese, Maori, Marathi, Mongolian, Dutch, Nepalese, Norwegian, Punjabi, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Swedish, Swahili, Tagalog, Tamil, Czech, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Yiddish, Yoruba, Zulu.
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