Monday, June 15, 2009

Google Translator Toolkit: A New Player in Translation Technology

This week, Google launched its new platform for translation projects, the Google Translator Toolkit. The tool is designed for translators and is similar to translation memory (TM) tools available in the market -- such as Across, Déjà Vu, Trados, and Wordfast -- and integrates Google Translate's statistical machine translation.

As we have been discussing in Common Sense Advisory's research, and in recent industry gatherings, this is the long-needed revolution in an industry that has been trying to "out-Trados" Trados, or trying to increase the productivity of processes and pump up technology that is old and cumbersome. Google Translator Toolkit incorporates all the collaboration features of current technology in an elegant way and enables translators to regain control of the process.
Even though it is still a bare bones solution, it will attract early adopters. Hardcore TM users, on the other hand, will likely shun the new technology.

It is still early to predict the impact of this launch, but we expect that the following will happen:
  • TM tools will develop interfaces that will read/write Google TMs and Google MT if they want to stay in the market.

  • Pre-translation and post-editing will become standard practices, even for the most recalcitrant translators.

  • Discussions about intellectual property of translation memories will become irrelevant, with negative impact for efforts like TM Market Place and the TAUS TDA initiative.

From the Google Translator Toolkit website, we also learn that:

  • It supports 47 languages.
  • Translations and glossaries each have a maximum size of 1MB.
  • Documents can be uploaded in most common file formats.
  • Translation memories have a maximum size of 50MB per upload.
  • Google Translator Toolkit is free, but in the future, Google plans to charge users whose translations exceed high-volume thresholds.

Google Translator Toolkit is not perfect. There are valid concerns about using it, along with the predictable resistance to change by those tied to the existing model. However, Google has already changed our behavior in the way we look for information. Now, it is launching a platform that has the potential to revolutionize the translation process, especially if combined with Google Wave, which is expected to be launched soon.

The role of the language services industry is to evolve from this stage. Alea jacta est!