Summary:

Many of us use Google Docs, and many of us also collaborate with others who speak different languages. As announced on the Google blog, you can now translate documents in Google Docs into 42 different languages. The supported languages include Arabic, Chinese and Japanese, and you […]

Many of us use Google Docs, and many of us also collaborate with others who speak different languages. As announced on the Google blog, you can now translate documents in Google Docs into 42 different languages. The supported languages include Arabic, Chinese and Japanese, and you can execute the translations almost instantly. Here’s how easy this is is to do.


I created a new document in Google Docs using Firefox 3.5. I then went to the “Tools” menu and chose “Translate Document.” This presents a pop-up list of 42 languages available for translation; I chose Japanese. At first, the document didn’t translate, but that was because of a pop-up blocker issue. I held down the Ctrl key on my keyboard to allow pop-ups and went through the process again. Almost instantly, the document appeared in Japanese.

The screenshot above shows what my original document looked like in English.  And here’s what it looked like translated into Japanese:

You can do this just as quickly with long documents. The translations are based on Google Translate, which you previously had to copy and paste text into in order to get translations. Once you create a document, you can choose to have it replace the original document, or save both documents, although I wish the interface seen in the translated documents provided a more intuitive way to see that you can save both documents.

As always, automatic machine translations are never perfect, which Google’s blog post concedes. Still, I looked at some translations in Spanish, which I speak moderately well, and the translations were mostly accurate, with a few examples of awkward syntax.

There are also many other tools for doing translations on-the-fly. I reviewed one of the most popular ones, Babylon, here. Also, the other day on the OStatic blog, we wrote about a brand new Firefox extension that focuses on translation, which was a very early beta at the time. Since then, it has been added to Mozilla’s official collection of Firefox extensions, and is available here. The nice thing about this extension is that you can use it to instantly translate entire web pages to and from many languages.

What translation tools do you use? Do you find they work well enough for you?

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