“Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.” Douglas Adams, Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy
Google now offers instant machine translation in Google Talk, a step on the road to the ultimate Babel Fish.
The new service is used by adding a translation bot to a Google Talk chat, for example adding firstname.lastname@example.org provides a translation from English to Chinese. The bot can be used as a direct look up tool for a translation, or in a group chat for translation on the fly as part of a conversation. For a two way conversation two bots are required, one for the English to other language translation, and one for the other language back into English.
A full list of languages available (and codes) can be found on the Google Talk blog here. The service also supports translation from non-English languages to other non-English languages as well, for example French to German and back again.
Lets hope that unlike the Babel Fish in Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy that Google Talk doesn’t start any conflicts; given that the service is pulling data from Google Translate some of those translations may end up being rather interesting to say the least.