Wednesday, November 14, 2012

You've come a long way, baby. (Du har kommit en lång väg, barn.)

I love Google+.  Today, something funny happened.  I was included as a specific recipient on a Google+ post with a question about Google Drive.  The person who posted it is Swedish, and a number of people who had already responded by the time I saw it are Swedish-speaking friends or colleagues of his.

I don't understand Swedish.

Before answering Niilo's original question, I wanted to make sure I wasn't just repeating what someone else had already said.  At that point, I didn't even know that what I was reading was Swedish, by the way.  I figured Scandinavian, but that's as close as I had gotten on my own.

Google Translate to the rescue!  I copied and pasted each response into the first box on the Google Translate screen, selecting "Detect" as the "from" language and English as the "to" language, and it translated for me (and informed me that I was looking at Swedish).

Click this image to see it enlarged...

This led to an interesting discussion with Niilo, during which I of course confessed my sneaky tech tactics.  He then shared with me this story from BBC News Technology about a recent demonstration by Microsoft of an instant English-Mandarin translation tool.

This is just exciting news all-around in terms of language tools, but of course, it presents new challenges for teachers of modern and classical languages.

I still think the entire thing is pretty cool.


  1. I really believe machine translation is a great asset in language learning - and teaching. You really have to know your way around languages in order to use these tools and get output that makes sense when working with fiction or especially poems!

  2. I used to be amazed by Google Translate, but last night I saw Word Lens on NOVA Science Now and almost fell over. We live in a very exciting world and I personally love the idea of using these resources with world language students to help them evaluate translated materials. Last year I learned a ton in my German class by popping things into Google Translate and then trying to understand why the computer came up with that particular sequence of words.