Google has announced that it is to expand on the success of its Google Translate service with the addition of instant translation between different languages in Gmail.
Expanding on the work it did at the end of 2007 adding
real-time translation to its IM service Google Talk, the company has released a – currently experimental – extension for its popular Gmail service which allows the user to automatically translate their e-mails into 41 different languages.
Dubbed Message Translation, the feature integrates the company's pre-existing Google Translate
technology into the Gmail webmail interface. Accessible by activating the Google Labs extension – the feature is not on by default – received e-mails are automatically translated as they are viewed.
The functionality does not extend to sent e-mails – however, the feature is available to all Gmail users regardless of native language – allowing the recipient of your vitally important messages to simply automatically translate your e-mail into their native tongue as you did theirs.
Machine translation is not without its pitfalls, however: although Google's translation engine is one of the better ones out there, it's not perfect – and can often result in sentences even less comprehensible than the original language. For anything vital, it will always be important to hire a professional translator – but for a quick e-mail to an acquaintance you met on a foreign holiday it just might make the conversation flow a little easier.
The feature is available on Gmail now by choosing “Settings,” “Labs,” and enabling “Message Translation.”
Do you think that Google's work is bringing us a step closer to the fabled Star Trek Universal Translator, or is automatic machine translation only going to spell trouble? Share your thoughts over in the forums.