Google’s Cross Language Search Coming “Soon”

Google held its Searchology event today and formally launched its “universal” search interface.

And, according to Wired, Google will be launching its Cross Language Information Retreival “soon.”

Cross language search allows you to translate your search query into another language and have the search results translated back into your language in real time. So if you want to know what the Germans have to say about, say, Web globalization, you can search in German.

This is a natural evolution for Google – the more content you can provide to users the more Adwords revenues you can potentially generate. And it’s not such a bad thing for people like me who want my Web site to reach as many people as possible but aren’t quite prepared to buck up for human translation.

But quality is key to success here, as well as speed of translation. Google uses statistical machine translation (SMT) for two language pairs and licenses machine translation technology from Systran for the rest of the language pairs. Will Google rely on both SMT and Systran? I’m not sure. I expect over time that Google will roll out SMT across all languages, but this will take time; SMT requires massive horsepower to generate fast results.

I’m glad to see Google getting ready to roll out this technology. It won’t be perfect and translators will have a field day making fun of its shortcomings. But SMT has the ability to learn from its mistakes so the sooner it starts “learning” on a large scale, the better it will get.

PS: Here’s a Register article on Google’s SMT technology. If you want more information on SMT, check out the profile we did a few months back on the pioneer in this field Language Weaver.

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Author: John Yunker

John co-founded Byte Level Research in 2000 and is author of The Web Globalization Report Card. He also co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

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