Google Translate has a few new tricks

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Yesterday I noticed that Google Translate has been upgraded again, with the following:

- a tiny keyboard in the corner for each language, letting you type even when you don't have access to a keyboard or layout in said language:

This is pretty much a no-brainer and the only remarkable thing about it is that it's taken so long to be added. So good that they finally got around to it.

More interesting than this is the ability to tweak translations. Actually I'm not sure if this was added yesterday too but that's when I noticed. It looks like this:

Moving the mouse over the translation on the right will cause parts of the original on the left to be highlighted in yellow, showing which part corresponds with the part you have the mouse arrow over. In addition to that you can click on that section to get other suggestions. This is particularly useful when you are dealing with a piece of text that you know is wrong but don't know exactly what it's supposed to say, as clicking on that section may bring up a better suggestion that will obviously be more correct.

It's also useful when going from English to another language, as instead of receiving one answer for something you want to say you can take a look at a number of suggestions. Sometimes Google Translate gets confused by simple sentences. I just wrote "toothpaste was expensive" for English - Portuguese and got the following:

Creme dental era caro

but clicking on each of the words I could also change it to:

pasta de dentes

(and a few others)

while era could be estava or foi, and so on.

These simple sentences are still the bane of Google Translate, which still often translates phrases in the positive as negative, and vice versa. Yesterday I watched Mulan in Portuguese and at the end the Emperor says to Lee Shang that he should go see Mulan because she's one of a kind (i.e. date her before you lose the opportunity). He says:
Não se encontra uma garota como ela em toda dinastia.
But Google thinks the Emperor is telling him there are many fish in the sea:
There is a girl like it throughout the dynasty.
Where's my look of disapproval?

Come on Google, Fa Mulan's not just some common tramp.

Oh and while we're on the subject, a few weeks ago I was typing out the following:

Видях една хубава къща

Bulgarian for "I saw a nice house". It's from The Little Prince. In the middle of typing it out though I got:

Now that, I don't get. Here, see for yourself.

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