Google does pioneer many innovative features on the web from their Maps offerings down the line, and their Google Translation has been assisting users for six years now. But, it has been announced that Gmail users will be able to utilize an auto-translation feature to translate text to their language of choice from now on. The email feature uses technology pioneered for the Google Translation service that has been continuously refined through the years. These two features are an example of how Google uses its search technologies to advance other areas of service. Google Translate accesses hundreds of millions of human translated documents online and looks for patterns to make highly educated guesses regarding the nature of the content to be translated, its context, and what the most appropriate translation would be.

This process is called “statistical machine translation” according to Google and it improves as the number of human-translated documents that Google Translate has access to increases (for each language). With that said, some languages have more than others, and so it follows that translations for some languages will be better than others. This feature is daunting in a way as in an instant, emails and documents can be translated into an entirely separate language. The implications are far-reaching, but lets look at what this development means for web users.

Takeaway For Private and Business Users
Those across industries including SEO companies that offer international SEO services are impacted by the integration of Google Translate into the Gmail service. The impact is apparent, but not necessarily game-changing, although it is the next step along a line of innovation that could be game-changing one day soon.

  • Convenience – The biggest benefit is the convenience that this feature brings to interpreting everyday correspondence with colleagues, associates, family, and friends. It is instantaneous and usually delivers an accurate approximation that can get users on their way. It is thus a great tool when used appropriately.
  • Accuracy – If accuracy is paramount, say in business transactions, then the auto-translation feature simply cannot be relied upon without human translation referencing and checking.
  • Use with Caution - Due to accuracy issues, given the nature of the particular translation, the feature essentially needs to be used with caution, as the context of a conversation and the intent of an email or document could be mistaken and the wrong sentiment or message can be given/received.
  • Human Translation - The work of human translation is certainly not dead as all official translation needs to still come from the work of people deciphering intent, context, and all that goes into our language construction. Although Google claims that the number of translations Google Translate handles in a day is equal to the number that all human translators do in a year (1 million books worth), the “statistical machine translation” has not quite matched the work of its human counterparts.

In the end, the feature is a great tool when used for purposes of convenience and to get the rough understandings of correspondence, but should not replace the full learning of the languages that you work with. For companies expanding into new markets and increasing their international correspondence, it could be just the right tool to give them some breathing room with some added functionality before they increase their internal language capabilities (without having to outsource for the human translation of every piece of correspondence).

For more information, reach out to me directly at rbuddenhagen@webimax.com and @ryanwbudd.