The Google Translate Blog - The official source for news on Google's translation technologies

When one translation just isn’t enough

Wednesday, December 15, 2010 | 2:09 PM

When you come to Google Translate, we always do our best to give you the most accurate translation our system can produce. However, sometimes translation can be pretty tough. Language is full of ambiguities and our system has to do its best to make the right choices. So why choose?

We’ve launched a new feature to provide you with alternate translations for each phrase in the translated text. Just click the translated phrase and you’ll see a pop-up menu of possible alternates for that phrase, as well as the original phrase highlighted in your original text. Not only can these alternative translations give you a better understanding of a confusing translation, but they also allow you to help Google choose the best alternative when we make a mistake.

This new feature is powered by harnessing the vast knowledge within our statistical machine translation system. Typically, when we produce a translation, our system searches through millions of possible translations, selecting the best -- that is, the most statistically likely -- translation. With this feature, we expose more of those possible alternatives. For more information about how our system works, check out http://translate.google.com/about/.

By using this feature, you can help improve Google Translate. Selecting phrase-level alternatives gives us feedback that fits well within the our system’s statistical models. We hope to incorporate this structured feedback into our system, improving translation quality over time.

We hope this makes our translations even more useful to you, and allows you to help us help you find the best translation possible!

Posted by Josh Estelle, Senior Software Engineer