Google and IBM Tackle Ambitious Translation Projects

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You may not realise it, but the internet sites you see when you surf the web are limited by the language you are surfing in. So, there’s always a part of the internet that you are shut out of.

Possibly, according to this article on, not for long, both IBM and Google are currently working on ambitious translation projects. If successful, they will be able to create accurate, instantaneous translations of web content.

IBM’s project, called n.Fluent, automatically translates web pages. Users can enter in a URL to get the page translation, and site owners can install a translation web app onto their site that allows users to choose their language from a drop-down menu to have the page translated.

Of course, machine translations are still imperfect-a problem IBM is trying to rectify by crowd-sourcing the work, tapping its multilingual workforce to improve the translation software’s capabilities. The approach has helped IBM rapidly improve the quality of their translations, but David Lubensky, an IBM “real-time translation” specialist, told CNN that the company still faces challenges with this approach:

“There are two challenges. Firstly, getting a sustainable, enthusiastic community can be difficult. The goal is to have an ongoing interest, to make it part of the fabric.  The second issue is quality assurance of content; how useful is the feedback, how many mistakes do people make and how much impact will they have?”

Google’s project is similar, but naturally, the titans of search are also interested in translating search terms.  Google’s vice president Marissa Mayer explained the goal of her company’s translation tool to the Daily Telegraph:

“Imagine what it would be like if there was a tool built into the search engine which translated my search query into every language and then searched the entire world’s web sites.  And then invoked the translation software a second and third time — to not only then present the results in your native language, but then translated those sites in full when you clicked through.”

Although IBM’s project is aimed more at businesses and Google’s appears to be aimed more at consumers, both would go a long way toward opening up the entire internet to everyone. However, it’s unlikely that they will replace the services of an experienced translation company-if you are translating something important, you want a human being who understands the nuances of both languages to do it.