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An experiment in cross-language communication with the BBC

Thursday, March 25, 2010 | 11:12 AM

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Earlier this month BBC launched an experiment using Google Translate to faciliate real-time discussion across languages. The project was part of the BBC’s SuperPower series which explored the transformative power of the internet. On SuperPower Nation Day, BBC readers from around the world were invited to discuss the Nation Day event online--and have their comments translated live for others to read.

The initiative used Google Translate to translate comments between seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, Persian, Indonesian, Portugese, and Spanish. While the translations were not perfect, most users were surprised by how well Google Translate enabled people from around the world to communicate with one another.

“Acredito que isto pode dar certo!” wrote Nathana from Brazil in one of the comments--or, as translated by Google Translate, “I believe this can work!”

While a few of the translations looked strange at first glance, most users found them intelligible and useful. For example one user’s comment was translated from Persian into, “World, the village is small. We all need each other to help maintain the world.” As you can see, not perfect, but understandable.

This experiment is a good example of how Google Translate can be used to help people of different languages communicate with one another. While there is still a long way to go in improving Google’s translation technology, we hope and expect to see projects like the BBC’s SuperPower Nation Day become more and more common--and as the opportunities arise we look forward to making our contribution with Google Translate.

Posted by Jeff Chin, Product Manager