Not exactly a stunning technical development, but still pretty interesting: Google has gotten around to integrating their translation tools right into Gmail through their labs section. Once the “Message Translation” plug-in is activated Gmail will detect if an email is not in your default language and will automatically give you the option to translate it. You can see the “Translate message to:” option in the screen shot below:
While they readily admit “it’s not quite the universal translators we’re so fond of from science fiction,” they do make a comment that I thought was pretty interesting:
“If all parties are using Gmail, you can have entire conversations in multiple languages with each participant reading the messages in whatever language is most comfortable for them.”
This is an interesting concept, and certainly for any non-mission critical exchanges will be quite handy – although I have to wonder what some of the quoted text further down in the email will look like after multiple runs through the machine translation system. I’ve found in the past even once through the grinder and back can leave the text pretty mangled, who knows what several exchanges back and forth will leave it looking like.
Either way an interesting addition to the Gmail system and another tiny step towards knocking down the language barrier.