Translate to Google Statistical (“Google Standard”?!) English?

Over the last three or four weeks, I’ve been finding myself on all manner of foreign language (i.e. non-English) web pages, and increasingly accepting Google Chrome’s offer to translate the page to English when it recognises the page isn’t in English…

Google Chrome translate

It’s still a bit ropey (as a close inspection of the above might suggest (‘select your drive‘???!) but as the algorithm used is powered by a Google training algorithm, the quality is likely to improve as the Goog indexes more and better translations of documents:

Anyway – a couple of things came to mind:

– translations aren’t into native speaker English, or German, or French, they’re into Google Statistical English, Google Statistical French etc etc

– I hope that the Goog doesn’t treat it’s own translations as training documents (though it could end up with some intriguing mistranslations…)

– Mandelbrot comes to mind, and the question whether anyone has done a limit cycle translator that takes a foreign language document, translates it into English, back to French, back to English and so on unti the English translation is stable? If the translation at each (English) step was fed into a wiki, could the wiki history be used to compare versions of the document and ‘colour’ different parts of it depending on how quickly those areas of the document converge to a stable translation? Does convergence happen at a different rate if you translate through different routes that appear to be more stable (for example, Austrian-German-English rather than Austrian English?!)


– Google has started doing “reading levels” as an advanced search switch, so will we start seeing “translate this “advanced” English page into “basic” English? Or maybe Google will offer the ability to translate all pages, including those originally written in English, into Google Standard English?! The Babelfish browser – *every* page gets auto-translated to Google Standard Foo (where the language “foo” is auto-detected from the search terms you use and the content Google knows you’ve created. If you thinking Amazon’s wonky recommendations after a present shopping spree can be a little bit irritating, just imagine what would happen if for some reason Google started translating every page that appeared in your browser into Google Standard Teen Edition language?!;-)

PS See also this Twitter auto-translation pipe. (Hint: to translate tweets from a non-English speaking @example, use from:example as the search term.

PPS Note to self – keep an eye on to see when the English to English translation ceases to be a direct copy…

e.g. in this example:


I introduced some spelling mistakes… will Google Translate start down the path to Google Standard (or Google Reading Level X) translations by introducing a spellchecker and grammar checker?!

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

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