Google Translate Makes The World Go 'Round
April 27, 2012

Google Translate Makes The World Go ‘Round

Michael Harper for

The internet truly is a magical place. Borders are virtually non-existent, people from every nationality and creed are able to interact with one another, and the language barrier continues to look more like a single-pane window rather than a concrete wall.

As an example, one needn´t look any further than the Tweets of one Yu Darvish, pitcher for the Texas Rangers baseball team.

The Japanese ace agreed to move to America and play Major League Baseball in January when he signed a contract with the American League Champions. Excited baseball fans wanting to learn more and connect with this new pitcher from the East took to Twitter, following his account @Faridyu, despite the fact he tweets almost exclusively in Japanese. Faster than a 95 mile and hour four-seam fastball, advantageous fans turned to Google Translate, turning the 140 character statements from Japanese to English. There are now several Twitter accounts which instantly take a Yu Tweet, run it through Google´s Translate, and retweet it out in English.

That, my friends, is the power of the Internet.

Baseball fans aren´t the only ones who depend on Google Translate to connect, learn, and navigate. According to Google, there are now more than 200 million people who actively use Translate each month. Franz Och, Research Scientist for Google announced these numbers in a blog post Thursday, saying: “In a given day we translate roughly as much text as you´d find in 1 million books. To put it another way: what all the professional human translators in the world produce in a year, our system translates in roughly a single day.”

When it launched in 2001, 8 languages could be translated to and from English. According to Och, the service wasn´t fast and wasn´t very good, either. After improving the service, Google introduced Chinese and Arabic in 2006. Since then, the service has evolved to include 64 different languages.

In addition to translating tweets or Chinese leaks of new iPhone parts, Och says the majority of users take advantage of the service when they travel to new parts of the world, noting 92% of their traffic comes from outside the US.

Mobile traffic has also driven these numbers, as Och says the amount of users translating on a mobile device has quadrupled in the past 2 years.

Google isn´t pretending their service will replace actual human translators, though. According to their blog post, mission-critical and nuanced translations still require the human touch, and despite the wide spread adoption of their translating machine, the need for human experts will become more crucial than ever.

True to form, Internet users have discovered ways to use Google Translate for more than its intended purpose. Case in point: The 2010 discovery of Translate´s ability to make music, as outlined by the fine folks at what is now The Verge.

Looking to the future, Och says the Google Translate team hopes to help users consume and share information globally, despite language.

“We already provide translation for webpages on the fly as you browse in Chrome, text in mobile photos, YouTube video captions, and speech-to-speech ℠conversation mode´ on smartphones. We want to knock down the language barrier wherever it trips people up, and we can´t wait to see what the next six years will bring.”