Google Chat translation feature: Now we're talking!

Google TalkI just found out about this yesterday (although it’s been available since December 2007) and couldn’t wait to tell you about it. It could be helpful in so many applications and I assume that it will continue to expand in its number of language applications. It’s a language translation feature built into Google Talk. First of all, let me tell you what Google Talk is and why we should learn how to use these Google tools.

Google talk is a gadget. And what is a gadget, you might ask? I think that Google customized the word “widget” and changed it to “gadget,” (probably since it begins with a “g”). Here is how Google defines their gadgets:

Gadgets powered by Google are miniature objects made by Google users like you that offer cool and dynamic content that can be placed on any page on the web.

Gadgets might come in handy when you’re at work (to-do list, currency converter, calendar), at school (calculator, Wikipedia, translation tool), or just passing time (news, blogs, games). You can add gadgets you like to iGoogle and, if you have Google Desktop installed, you can also add gadgets to your computer’s desktop.

Google has a neat gadget called “Google Talk,” and again, I need to give you a bit more information about this gadget. First of all, it can be used in two different environments . . . web-based or you can download it to your computer for a more robust experience. (Unfortunately for us Apple users, the download version is only available on PCs. Rats!) However, the download version provides a lot of rich features, such as:

  • Instant messaging — Chat with all of your Google Talk and Gmail contacts in real time.
  • Free PC-to-PC voice calls — You can talk to anyone else for free who’s online and has the Google Talk client
  • Send and receive voicemails— If the person you’re calling isn’t available, you can leave a voicemail. Learn more
  • Unlimited file transfers — Send files to your contacts. There are no file size or bandwidth restrictions.
  • Gmail notifications on your desktop — When you’re signed into Google Talk, you’ll be notified of new messages in your Gmail inbox. (Find out more about Google Talk: http://www.google.com/talk/about.html)

The web-based version is good, too, but just know that you can’t have an audio/voice conversation with another person. But what I want to talk about today involves the text-based, chatting feature, so let’s move forward on that!

Why should you learn how to use Google Talk and other Google tools? Well . . . the most obvious reason is that we will be using Google mail and the suite of Google Apps through Boise State soon. Students will be the first to access and use these tools and then by Fall 2008, faculty and staff will follow. Google has some powerful tools and if you start getting used to them now, you’ll just be that further ahead. So, get started and try these out!

As the world becomes flatter and flatter (read The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman if you haven’t already), we will be communicating across languages. In order to help others understand and communicate with a wider audience, translation services and software are becoming easier to use and more accessible. When I found out that Chinese faculty who are visiting the BSU Nursing Department and are using Google Talk to instantly translate what people are writing them to Chinese, I became very interested. Here’s how you do this:

The instructions are included on this page, and it is pretty easy to figure out: http://www.google.com/support/talkgadget/bin/answer.py?answer=89921&topic=10600

All you have to do is add the appropriate Google Talk bot to your friends list in Google Talk and then include this bot in any conversations you are having which you want translated. Say, for instance, you will be chatting with a person who speaks French and you want that translated to English. First, you need to establish communication with your French friend and then invite the bot you set up as a friend to be included in a Group chat. (This would be the “fr2en.bot.talk.google.com” bot.) This bot will act as your translator in the conversation. I have not actually used this with another person, so I’d love more information on this or helpful feedback.

I used Google Talk simply as a personal translator for my text. To do this, I invited a bot I had added that translates from English to French “en2fr@bot.talk.google.com” Then, I simply typed in a message in English, and the French translation appeared. While I know there are probably oodles of translation sites out there, this was pretty easy. So, if you are an English-speaking person studying French and want to know how to say something in French, you can use Google Talk. But more importantly, if you are chatting with a French person (or any of the other languages Google supports), you can always invite your little French Google bot friend to help out. Think of this bot as just another person in the conversation . . . your personal translator.

Our world just keeps getting flatter.

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