A couple of weeks ago Google announced the launch of the Google Translate Community, an initiative aimed at improving the quality of translations offered by its hugely popular Google Translate tool, which covers 80 languages. This community is open to everyone. Essentially, the company is calling on users to get involved and use their language expertise for the greater good - namely, to crowd source translations, thus potentially improving the Google Translate experience for millions of people across the globe.
Now this is exciting news. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, I do use Google Translate every now and then. I think it's great. It's free and very useful when you have a short text or a phrase in a language that you do not understand and all you need is to get the gist of what that particular text or expression actually means. However, if you have ever used Google Translate, you will probably agree that the translations it supplies are oftentimes far from perfect and, therefore, do need to be proof read by a human. Some of the translations it comes up with are downright baffling. On this site you will find some rather amusing examples of those http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/10-google-translate-fails.html.
It is commendable that Google is aware of the limitations of this service and is actively looking to improve it instead of resting on its laurels.
I visited the Google Translate Community page the other day to see how it actually works. It is actually fun and even slightly addictive! All you need to do is select the languages you are proficient in (one of them has to be English and you can only select a maximum of five) and off you go. There is an option for translating a phrase or a sentence from scratch or you can rate or validate an existing translation. I would assume Google has some kind of algorithm in place that allows them to perform quality checks on all those translations before using them.
Another new feature of Google Translate is the Improve this translation tab. This is good, as it allows users to correct a poor translation there and then. Of course, without the knowledge of the source language and depending on the level of difficulty of the text in question, it may be rather difficult to ascertain whether the translation supplied needs improving. This probably only works for correcting glaring grammatical and spelling mistakes.
Overall, it seems Google is investing a lot of effort into improving the quality of its free automated translation services. It remains to be seen whether the Google Translate Community initiative will take off and will be able to attract a lot of contributors. After all, its success depends entirely on them.