Google Translate works very well for literal translations of documents and instructions but can offer obscure and even nonsensical translations of slang terms. That’s why the new Google Translate feature hasn’t come a moment too soon.
Google will expand its Translate Community scheme and ask users to help make the software more conversational and better at recognising slang and colloquial terms. The community program manager at Google Translate, Aaron Babst wrote the following in a blog post:
‘People use Google Translate a lot – we translate over 100 billion words a day. However, in the past, our translation systems have generally been better at making sense of government and business documents than in helping people casually communicate. But that’s all changing thanks to a recent update we rolled out. So the next time you translate informal speech in Google Translate, you might just find a better translation.’
The new tool acts like a wiki contribution. In the right-hand corner of the translation box, a small pencil icon with the word ‘Wrong?’ will now appear. You can open the editing tool by clicking the icon and then you can refine the translation and tell Google how you think it should be.
Of course the changes are not immediate as this would make Google Translate a prime target for the japes of internet trolls. So rather than being applied automatically, the accumulative refinements from multiple users are reviewed
and then applied ‘over time’ to help the software provide more accurate translations of conversational terms and language.
If you put phrases into Google Translate now, they usually come out literally and don’t convey the intended meaning. This tool will allow users to understand the contextual meaning of a phrase rather than the literal meaning of the words it contains. Take the German translation below as an example.
The nonsense about sausages having two ends isn’t very illuminating but if you speak German you will know that this phrase means “all good things come to an end”. With this new feature, it may be that bad translations from Google Translate come to an end too.·