Google Translates everything

Is Google Translate heading towards an end game position? Two posts on the products blog would have me believe it is closer than you would think. Just this week Google announced that email translations was moving from a Lab curio to all email users:

We heard immediately from Google Apps for Business users that this was a killer feature for working with local teams across the world. Some people just wanted to easily read newsletters from abroad. Another person wrote in telling us how he set up his mom’s Gmail to translate everything into her native language, thus saving countless explanatory phone calls (he thanked us profusely).

Since message translation was one of the most popular labs, we decided it was time to graduate from Gmail Labs and move into the real world. Over the next few days, everyone who uses Gmail will be getting the convenience of translation added to their email. The next time you receive a message in a language other than your own, just click on Translate message in the header at the top of the message…

If you’re bi-lingual and don’t need translation for that language, just click on Turn off for: [language]. Or if you’d like to automatically have messages in that language translated into your language, click Always Translate. If you accidentally turned off the message translation feature for a particular language, or don’t see the Translate message header on a message, click on the down arrow next to Reply at the top-right of the message pane and select the Translate message option in the drop-down.

The second big hint, in the article, Breaking down the language barrier—six years in, is by one of the Google Translate researchers, includes a short history and context, and the stats are amazing:

Today we have more than 200 million monthly active users on (and even more in other places where you can use Translate, such as Chrome, mobile apps, YouTube, etc.). People also seem eager to access Google Translate on the go (the language barrier is never more acute than when you’re traveling)—we’ve seen our mobile traffic more than quadruple year over year. And our users are truly global: more than 92 percent of our traffic comes from outside the United States.

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. By this estimate, most of the translation on the planet is now done by Google Translate.

Of course, he repeats the mantra that all professional translators will want to hear:

Of course, for nuanced or mission-critical translations, nothing beats a human translator—and we believe that as machine translation encourages people to speak their own languages more and carry on more global conversations, translation experts will be more crucial than ever.

I think that these two posts are important – not only does Google have enough faith in it’s translations that it can roll them out across potentially the most used email system on the planet, but the statistic of 1 million books a day being translated just goes to show how much off the cuff, non mission critical translation was just waiting to happen.