The Best Translation Program Yet: Google Delivers Foreign Tongues at the Press of a Button

A German scientist has developed one of the first translation programs suitable for everyday use. Sheer computing power gives the Google software surprisingly good results — perhaps the best yet seen created by a machine.

It’s a good sign when the creator of a piece of software ends up using it. On a recent trip to Japan, Franz Och, who doesn’t speak Japanese, was able to decipher restaurant menus and even read local news — using his mobile phone, which provided him with the translations within seconds.

Och spent the last six years developing Google Translate, a translation program, at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California, “and so far I’ve never really used it myself,” Och admits. But then the 38-year-old research scientist has a change of heart and adds, “I am very happy with what we have achieved.”

Och, a German citizen, is the behind-the-scenes star of a segment of the software industry that has taken on a challenge no less daunting than tearing down global language barriers. In his job at Google, …. More

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