Google and language

Google BanglaIs there anything Google can’t do these days? My admiration for the company’s products is tinged by just a hint of conspiracy paranoia that it’s all a prelude to a world takeover.

But seriously, is there anything Google can’t do? It’s already, amongst other things, improved immeasurably the way the world searches the internet, changed the way we use maps, begun digitising the world’s creative resources, forced every website to go 2.0 with the release of sidewiki and is now, apparently, about to kill email with Google Wave.

Looking at language there are plenty of very clever things the company is doing. Although my interest is what these allow you to do in Bengali, for which most require the right fonts, they apply to many other languages as well.

Google’s online Bengali dictionary

First up is Google Dictionary, which as well as allowing you to look up the meaning of words also facilitates their translation from English to 27 other languages and from those languages back to English. It provides definitions and translations of single words, and some phrases, in 28 languages, including Bengali and Hindi, as well as a number of European and other Asian languages.

Looking up a word gives its definition, how it sounds through an embeded audio function and then translates its into your chosen language.

For example, using the Google Dictionary to translate “smile” gives হাসা (hasa), and then two related phrases: “smile at”  উপহাস করা (ipōhas kōra) and “smile from ear to ear” 1. বত্রিশপাটি বের করে হাসা  (bōtrisōpati ber kōre hasa) 2. কান এঁটো করে হাসা (kan aeto kōre hasa). Note, however, that  words are only given in Bengali script – the transliterations in brackets I added.

Google’s online Bengali transliteration

On the subject of transliteration, there’s a Google tool for this too. Google’s easy to use Indic Transliteration allows words to be typed in roman script and then automatically converts them to one of 11 Indian language scripts. The languages thus supported are Bengali, Hindi, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Punjabi, Tamil, Telegu and Urdu.

Transliteration is different from translation.Translation converts a word’s meaning from one language to another; transliteration converts a word’s presentation from one script to another (e.g. the Roman script English is written in to Bengali script).

So, if you use Google’s Indic Transliteration for “am” the Bengali word for mango, it turns “am” into “আম”, but if you type “mango” you get “মান্য” (literally mango, not a translation of it).

There are a couple of tools that can be used with Indic Transliteration. If you have an iGoogle homepage via a Google account then Indic Transliteration can also be added as one of the featured modules there.

You can also use a Google bookmarklet to use Indic Transliteration on any website. For example to search Google Bangla, for mango pickle (আম আচার) recipes.

But that’s quite enough cheerleading for Mountain View for one day.

2 responses to “Google and language

  1. Pingback: iPhone apps for Bengali transliteration | A Tangle Of Wires

  2. Pingback: Google refines Bengali transliteration tool | A Tangle Of Wires

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