Google’s network pushes the limits of translation technology and has become a favored source of translations for millions of people, reports the New York Times. The company’s free Google Translate service handles 52 languages, more than any similar system, and people use it hundreds of millions of times a week to translate web pages and other text. “What you see on Google Translate is state of the art” in computer translations that are not limited to a particular subject area, said Alon Lavie, an associate research professor in the Language Technologies Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Google’s efforts to expand beyond searching the web have met with mixed success. Its digital books project has been hung up in court, and the introduction of its social network, Buzz, raised privacy fears. The pattern suggests that it can sometimes misstep when it tries to challenge business traditions and cultural conventions. But Google’s quick rise to the top echelons of the translation business is a reminder of what can happen when Google unleashes its brute-force computing power on complex problems…

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