Anyone speak Russian? Yandex rolls out Yandex.Translate

Russian search engine Yandex is having a busy week. After flicking the switch on its PayPal competitor Yandex.Money so that it supports other countries in the CIS region beyond Russia, the company has today unveiled Yandex.Translate, an online translation service based on “proprietary machine translation technology.”

The new service (Google Translate, anyone?) translates text or web pages in Russian into English or Ukrainian. It works the other way round too. Text and web pages in English or Ukrainian can also be translated into Russian.

Yandex’s machine translation technology is said to be statistical:

It builds special-purpose dictionaries based on analyses of millions of documents – originals and translations. When translating text, the system picks the most statistically probable translation in a given context.

That said, Aleksey Baytin, head of Yandex.Translate, is honest enough to admit the system is far from perfect (anybody who has used competing services won’t be surprised) and that the human touch can’t be beaten but that machine translation is often just good enough.

“But, more often than not, all a user needs is just a general idea of what other people think of a hotel abroad or how a certain event is covered in the foreign media. An online translator can easily help with that. And do that in a matter of seconds”.