'Screenshot-Google Translate - Google Chrome' photo (c) 2011, Augie Schwer - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Google Translate is the most popular site and app in the world for translation, and I thought it would be useful — both for readers and for my Theory of Knowledge students — to bring together some resources to learn how it works.

Here are my picks for The Best Sites For Learning About Google Translate (also see THE BEST IDEAS FOR USING GOOGLE TRANSLATE IN THE ELL CLASSROOM – PLEASE ADD YOUR OWN!):

How Google Translate works
is from The Independent.

How Google Translate Works Its Magic
is from Read Write Web.

Worlds Unknown: The Regions Ignored by Google Translate is from The Atlantic.

I have written a lot in my blog and in my book on teaching English Language Learners on how I use inductive learning in the classroom. Teaching “inductively” generally means providing students with a number of examples from which they can create a pattern and form a concept or rule. Teaching “deductively” is first providing the rule or concept and then having students practice applying it. This two-and-one-half minute video below explains that this is how Google Translate learns, too. It’s definitely worth watching.

Introducing Translate for Animals (beta): Bridging the gap between animals and humans was a funny April Fool’s Day prank Google pulled one year.

The Cold War Origins Of Google Translate is from the BBC and is pretty interesting.

I list my preferences for online translators in The Best Reference Websites For English Language Learners, along with sharing research from The New York Times on which ones do a better job. I list Google as the best. Ethan Shen has done a research project comparing Google Translate, Babelfish and Bing Translator. Here are his conclusions:

The final data reveals that while Google Translate is widely preferred when translating long passages, Microsoft Bing Translator and Yahoo Babelfish often produce better translations for phrases below 140 characters.

The New York Times  published a chart titled “Putting Google to the Test in Translation.” In it, they compare several pieces of text using Google Translate, Yahoo’s Babel Fish, and Microsoft’s Bing translation system.  Google seemed to come out on top.

Doc Translator says it “Instantly translates and preserves the layout of Office documents using the Google Translate.”It could be a useful tool for times like when my ESL students wrote informational fliers for their neighborhoods when the H1N1 flu first hit. They can put their energy into writing a document in English, make it into a nice flier, use Doc Translator to translate it (and maybe tidy it up a bit), and then upload it to the web.

Google Translate Adds Example Sentences To Put Words Into Context is from TechCrunch.

Microsoft’s Chief Research Officer gave a pretty amazing demonstration of computer translation advancement. You can watch the entire video here). He speaks English and, just seconds later, what he says is translated into Mandarin in his own voice.

You can read more about this advance, including a history of machine translation, at his post.

Lost in Translation? Try a Google App is from The New York Times.

“Never Forget a Useful Phrase Again – Introducing Phrasebook for Google Translate”

Star Trek “Universal Translator,” Here We Come?

Google Wants To Improve Its Translations Through Crowdsourcing is from TechCrunch.

Making Use Of Google Translate offers some intriguing thoughts for ESL teachers.

Language Translation Tech Starts to Deliver on Its Promise is a New York Times article. I was particularly struck by this line:

Google will soon announce updates to its translation app for phones. Google Translate now offers written translation of 90 languages and the ability to hear spoken translations of a few popular languages. In the update, the app will automatically recognize if someone is speaking a popular language and automatically turn it into written text.

A Step Towards Star Trek’s “Universal Translator”

Infographic: How Skype’s New “Simultaneous” Translation Works

“Google Translate” Starts A Big Time Update Today

What Would a World Without Language Barriers Look Like? is an Atlantic article about Skype’s new “instant” translator,

Skype’s Version Of Star Trek “Universal Translator” Now Available To Public

Is Translation an Art or a Math Problem? is from The NY Times.

Video: “How Google Translate Makes Signs Instantly Readable”

Video: The Most Translated Words Using Google Translate Are…

TED-Ed has published an interesting lesson and video on “How computers translate human language.”

Machines, Lost In Translation: The Dream Of Universal Understanding

Google Translate Announces Addition of 13 Languages For A Total Of 103
Skype’s Amazing Simultaneous Translator Adds Arabic – Now Supports Eight Languages

Could the language barrier actually fall within the next 10 years? is from The Conversation.

Star Trek “Universal Translator” Gets A Little Closer To Reality – Maybe


Google Says They Just Achieved A Huge Breakthrough In Machine Translation

Google Translate Dramatically Expands Recent Breakthrough

The Promise & Peril Of Using Google Translate In The ELL Classroom – Share Your Ideas

Google Translate has made some new advances. Read about them at these two TechCrunch posts: Google’s smarter, A.I.-powered translation system expands to more languages and Google makes its local reviews easier to use when traveling with automated translation.

Translation platforms cannot replace humans is from The Economist.

Microsoft’s Presentation Translator translates presentations in real time is from TechCrunch.

Super-Brainy Translation Tools Mean Language Barriers Are Falling Fast is from NBC News.

This earpiece can translate foreign languages in seconds is from Wired.

M is for Machine translation is by Scott Thornbury.

Google Unveils New Ear Buds That Automatically Translate 40 Languages

The Coolest Thing I Saw at BETT Today! is a post by Richard Byrne where he gives an update on the Microsoft Translator.

How to Use Microsoft Translator is from Richard Byrne.

The Shallowness of Google Translate is from The Atlantic.

Waverly Labs offers real-time translation with its Pilot earbuds is from TechCrunch.

Microsoft announces breakthrough in Chinese-to-English machine translation is a TechCrunch post. You can try out their new new tool here.



Lost in translation? Try interpreter mode with the Google Assistant is from Google.


Google’s Translatotron converts one spoken language to another, no text involved is from TechCrunch.


Machine Learning for Translation: What’s the State of the Language Art? is from Read Write.

The Latest In Translation Devices is from The NY Times.


Translate this: How real-time translation breaks down barriers when you don’t speak the language is from USA Today.

Phone Call Translator lets you “Call worldwide in 30 popular languages. Calls to all devices (even landlines)Automatic speech translation.”

The Microsoft Translator looks pretty cool.  It seems to be its latest version of a simultaneous translation tool.  I’m still figuring it out but, at least online, you can have a bunch of different people speaking different languages and it will turn everyone’s audio into each other person’s language with immediate text.  It says they plan to upgrade it specifically for classroom use soon.  I’ll be looking forward to seeing what that looks like.

Now you can transcribe speech with Google Translate is from Google.

Apple will debut a Translate app in iOS 14 is from EnGadget. It will be interesting to see how it compares to Google Translate.

Translatar is an intriguing new app that, if you point it at something, will tell you what it is in the language of your choice. I might be wrong, but I believe that Google and other tools lets you point the camera at words and translate them, but I don’t believe they have this ability. Let me know if I’m wrong. Take a look at this video about Translatar:

PowerPoint for Microsoft 365 and PowerPoint for the web now offer captions or subtitles shown live on the big screen as you present to your audience – and it’s multilingual. You can speak in English and the subtitles will appear in whatever language you want. Learn more here.


Yous lets you do a web-based video call with someone who speaks a different language.  Then, when you speak, the audio automatically is transformed into a chat in that person’s language.  If you keep your calls to five minutes, it’s free to use (you have to pay for longer periods).  The Microsoft Translator does something similar, but it doesn’t have the video/audio component and only translates the chat.  If “Yous” sticks around, or if other tools like it do, it could rival Google’s “Interpreter Mode” as a way teachers can communicate with families (see GOOGLE’S NEW “INTERPRETER MODE” MAKES IT EASIER FOR TEACHERS & PARENTS TO TALK IF THEY DON’T SPEAK EACH OTHER’S LANGUAGES).



Microsoft Translator for Education can be a very helpful tool.

Waverly Labs launches a translation app called Forum with support for 20 languages is from TechCrunch, and it’s about a new app that supposedly provides real-time audio translation.

OpenAI debuts Whisper API for speech-to-text transcription and translation is from TechCrunch.

10 things I noticed after switching to Pixel Buds Pro is from Google, and talks about some neat simultaneous translation features.

How we taught Google Translate to recognize homonyms is from Google.


OpenAI Unveils Lots Of Changes, Two Which May Be Particularly Helpful To Educators

Let me know if you have other suggestions.

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