12/17/2009

Transliteration goes global


Most of us use a keyboard to enter text; it's one of the most basic activities we perform on a computer. However even this simple activity can be cumbersome in many parts of the world. If you've ever tried to type in a non-Roman script using a Roman keyboard, you know that it can be difficult to do. Many of us at Google's Bangalore office experienced this problem firsthand. Roman keyboards are the norm in India, making it difficult to type in Indian languages. We decided to tackle this problem by making it very easy to type phonetically using Roman characters and we launched this service as Google Transliteration.

Using Google Transliteration you can convert Roman characters to their phonetic equivalent in your language. Note that this is not the same as translation — it's the sound of the words that are converted from one alphabet to the other. For example, typing "hamesha" transliterates into Hindi as: Hindi transliteration example, typing "salaam" transliterates into Persian as: Farsi transliteration exampleand typing "spasibo" transliterates into Russian as . Since our initial launch for a single Indian language, we've been hard at work on improving quality, adding more languages and new features.

Today we are pleased to introduce a new and improved version of Google Transliteration, available in Google Labs or at http://www.google.com/transliterate.

In this new version, you can select from one of seventeen supported languages: Arabic, Bengali, Greek, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Persian, Punjabi, Russian, Sanskrit, Serbian, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. You can also compose richly formatted text and look up word definitions with our dictionary integration. If the default transliteration is not the word you wanted, you can highlight it to see a list of alternatives. For even finer-grained control, we provide a unicode character picker to allow character-by-character composition.

Google Transliteration is integrated into several Google properties and we have an API and bookmarklets to extend this capability to other websites. A solution we initially built to solve a problem we saw here in India is now being used in many other parts of the world as well - one small example of the scale and leverage that technology can bring in today's increasingly globalized environment. As with all labs products, we will continue to improve the technology and try out new features. We would love to hear from you, so do let us know what you think.






No comments:

Post a Comment