Google translate for Apps users, on-screen keyboard for all

Two interesting new updates on the Google translate blog. First is the availability of Google translator toolkit for Google Apps users. It comes free with a Google Apps account – to which Monash has recently moved all staff and students. I will be checking the availability of this for us tomorrow, and am hoping that it is available. There are a lot of issues surrounding the Translator Toolkit – copyright over translations and TMs, privacy of data and making translator’s redundant being the biggest – but that doesn’t make me any less excited about this move. One advantage for me is that I would be able to use it in class as a translation tool, without the difficulties I’ve experienced so far with other translation tools (running in shared environments, running on locked down systems, licensing, etc). Another is the ability to show my students that they are going to need to very carefully think about how to position themselves in the market now that translation is so readily available so quickly and cheaply. Again, without being able to read the future, I would suggest bespoke and expert translation services, with a strong privacy focus are potential solutions.

The second update from Google is a usability improvement – the addition of an on screen keyboard for the input language:

With this launch, we’ve added on-screen keyboards for these languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh, and Yiddish.

Some of you may be familiar with our “Phonetic typing” feature – for a few languages such as Arabic, you can type a word as it would sound in English (e.g. “marhaban”), and see the letters transformed to Arabic (e.g. مرحبا)* before being translated. The new on-screen keyboards do not interfere with phonetic typing for languages that support both – when the keyboard is open, phonetic typing will be disabled.

Personally, I’ve got Character Palette on my toolbar for easy insertion of unusual characters, and my experience with translation students has shown that most multi-linguals know how to change keyboards or keyboard layouts between languages relatively quickly, but it’s a very handy edition for the non technical.

* Yes I can see this encoding problem. If I could fix it I would – I believe it’s a WordPress issue. My database charsets and collations are set correctly, I’ve pasted the text in from a text editor, I’ve checked the background html, I’ve checked my browser encoding… Basically I’ve done everything possible at my end to make sure it’s correct. Don’t ask me why it’s not working. WordPress. Bloody php apps.**

** That’s what you get when you work with Google’s tools 🙂 I was composing this post in Chromium, the Ubuntu equivalent of Google’s Chrome browser. Sure enough, move to Firefox, and it all comes good suddenly. My disrespect for php apps remains, however. For the record it’s a code snob thing, for as you can see – I use them quite extensively.