Microsoft Translator Team Blog

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  • Microsoft Translator Team Blog

    Translation User Experience: Guest Blog


    Andrea Jessee is the Senior Program Manager on the Microsoft Translator team in charge of the user experience.  Today's guest blog is how the team thinks about user experience with translation. 

    Creating a better user experience

    We have shown the suite of Microsoft Translation services at various shows and tech events. The number one question we get is: Show me how it translates <some interesting example sentence>. Sometimes we do well, other times the system behavior is (probably) as expected: meaning – we choke on the (possibly highly ambiguous) sentence and produce something funny. We know that the hard problem of Machine Translation has not been solved yet. We are working tirelessly on translation quality improvements and expansion, but it remains a hard nut to crack – for anyone in the field. Why – if we know it – don’t we wait for the major break-through instead of releasing a service that is far from perfect? The answer is simple: We recognize the growing need for such a service. In this era of the ever-expanding internet which is blissfully ignoring any geographic borders, in times where information retrieval must cross language boundaries to ensure access to the bigger picture, in recognition of the fact that English is a dominating language in our “world-wide-web”, we simply must respond to the resulting needs today. And so we do … like other respectable providers in the field, we offer a free service to the best of our current technological and scientific abilities.

    We take it one step further

    In addition to our investment in the core translation technology, the Microsoft Translator team has spent a significant amount of effort on the creation of a user experience which acknowledges and mitigates current limitations of raw translation quality, maximizing its usefulness to our users. This is especially highlighted in our distinguished Bilingual Viewer: Its commitment to provide ease of access to original and translation language and its one-click views customizations, all enhanced by parallel highlighting, synchronized scrolling and navigation functions has received raving reviews.

    A user-friendly UI concept is only one of our approaches to bridge the gap between a current need for our service and the current limitations. In focus groups we have learned that ease of access to our service is being expected from a wide range of other Microsoft properties. Hence, a seamless integration into other communication and authoring tools became a vital part of our mission to create a better user experience for the consumers of o translation service.

    The Windows Live Translator toolbar button gives immediate access to the Bilingual Viewer experience from wherever you are on the web. Our friendly Translation Bot TBot can either translate text for you using the Windows Live Messenger, or serve as your personal chat interpreter between you and your international buddies. Internet Explorer 8 has the translation service right built into its Accelerators, offering text or full page translations with as much as a mouse hover or click. If you wish to use our translation service directly from Office Word, you can do this today without the need to wait for a new Office release. And yes – full document translation is delivered in bilingual view. Of course, the same functionality is also available to you in Office Outlook, if you have chosen to display it in Office Word mode. We also would like site owners to benefit from our offering if they’d like to make their pages available with free translations. A simple copy/paste action is all it takes to Add our web page translator to your site.

    In further acknowledgement of the limitations of machine translation, we also offer a direct link to an affordable professional on-demand translation team, delivering human translations sometimes in a matter of hours.

    And we are not done yet … please stay tuned for new releases of more and better features, experiences, and integration scenarios. And please do continue to post your wishes to our blog. We read all your posts carefully and will factor in your feedback in the planning of our next design steps…

    Thank you!

    Andrea Jessee, MSR-MT User Experience PM

  • Microsoft Translator Team Blog

    New language pair on


    The Translator team is excited to announce the availability of the English to Russian language pair on  This language pair is now available across all implementations of the translator technology, including Live Search and (in the next few days) the Windows Live Messenger TBot. 

    You have probably noticed that the Russian to English language pair has been available for some time on our site.  As always, translation quality is a top focus for our team.  Sometimes reaching quality takes longer for a particular direction – this can be for many reasons.  For example, if you are translating between a simple language and a complex language, the translations will be better going to the simple language than they will be going to the complex language.  If you are interested in learning more about the technology behind our machine translation engine, see Will Lewis’ blog post on statistical machine translation.

    While machine translation is certainly never perfect, for this new language pair we have now hit our quality bar for release.  How do we determine the quality bar?  In general, when the translation can be considered “useful”.  We consistently receive feedback from our users that imperfect translation which is useful is better than no translation.  So we have to balance user demand with translation quality.  With that in mind, we test our language pairs with human evaluations, until we have reached “useful” translation. 

    We are always open to your constructive feedback and help – please continue to help us so that we can keep improving quality!  We are always very grateful for good feedback. 

    Some other updates in this release you may notice:

    · We have officially migrated our domain to

    · Improved quality across several language pairs, due to improvements in training data quality

    · Improvements in Japanese to English, due to an improved method of parsing the training data

  • Microsoft Translator Team Blog

    Linking to a foreign language web page with Microsoft Translator


    Have you ever wanted to link to a web page that is in a different language than your own site?

    (Update 01-2015)

    Translator Widget: For your own pages (http and https)

    The Microsoft Translator webpage widget allows you to deliver the page in multiple languages, without taking your users away from the site. Go here to get the code snippet for your widget. Pages with the widget on them can be linked to in a specific language by adding ?__mstto=<lg> to the URL where <lg> is the language code (like es for Spanish) you want the page to be shown in.

    For instance, this article in English has the following link:

    In Spanish:

    Billingual Viewer: On any web page (http protocol only, no https)

    You can use Microsoft Translator bilingual viewer to link to the translated web page. 


    You can directly embed all the options in the link. Here is how that works:

    Syntax (see examples above):

              from=<source language>&

              to=<target language>&


              a=<target address>

    Valid language codes:

    en, de, fr, it, es, pt, zh-chs, zh-cht, ja, ko, ar, ru, nl, cs, da, he, el, pl, sv, th

    Valid layout codes:

    SS (side-by-side), TB (top-bottom), SP (original with hover translation), TP (translation with hover original)

  • Microsoft Translator Team Blog

    Politically Incorrect Machines


    While we at the Machine Translation team have been seeing increasing traffic to our various offerings over the past few months, we noticed a sudden bump in traffic yesterday. Having grown up on Agatha Christie and Sherlock Holmes, such mysteries are irresistible for me – and a number of other folks on the team were just as curious to find out what caused this sudden bump. We figured that the IE8 Activity/Accelerator, the Messenger Bot, Search translations, Office translations were all showing the same upward trend as the days before and thus were not the specific reason for this bump.

    Eventually, we were able to identify one potential reason why we were seeing this spike. Our user community found an oddity in how the machine translation engine processed the translation for several names from English to German. It was to be expected that when the engine translates the name of the candidate of one party to someone from the other party, given the current political atmosphere in the run up to US elections, that it would end up as news. While we certainly welcome all the new users that came by to check this phenomenon out – we wanted to share with our users the reason why such things seem to happen from time to time with statistically trained machine translation systems from us and others.

    A Statistical Machine Translation engine is trained on lots and lots of parallel data, that is, data that exists in both a source language (e.g., English) and a target language (e.g., German), where the source and target are translations of one another. Our engine is trained on millions of sentences for each language pair we support. In order to train on a particular corpus of data—maybe a large number of newswire articles in English which have been translated into German—we first have to break that corpus down into sentences. After the corpus is sentence broken, we feed the resulting sentences into a sentence aligner, the sole purpose of which is to find what sentences on the source side align with sentences on the target side. This is no trivial task, since a sentence on one side could conceivably align with one or more sentences on the target (or possibly none at all!). The aligner will sometimes make mistakes, and misalign one sentence with another that is in fact not a translation. This can lead to some mistranslations, especially if there are words in the source and target that are infrequently occurring. Since our translation engine is statistical, it is highly reliant on co-occurrence frequencies between words in the source and target data. If certain words are infrequently occurring—people’s names, for instance, may only occur a few times across a corpus of millions of sentences—the lack of frequency can lead to mistranslations resulting from incorrect “guesses” between source and target (i.e., low probabilities assigned to particular source and target words). This can lead to some comical gaffes in our translation system.

    So, that is how the “machine” decided to translate in a way that ended up with the community attributing it to the sense of humor of our team. While we continue to work hard to ensure proper alignments, it is to be expected from a statistical system that is built on millions to billions of words that such a situation could repeat.

    The current issue with alignment should now be resolved but we urge our community of users to keep helping us identify any such situations by contacting us through this blog.


    Vikram Dendi leads Business Strategy & Product Planning for the Microsoft Translator team
  • Microsoft Translator Team Blog

    Have you seen the Bilingual Viewer?


    Our web page translation includes a user interface we refer to as the Bilingual Viewer. It offers 4 types of bilingual views which users can choose depending on preference. The side-by-side and top/bottom views offer synchronized scrolling, highlighting, and navigation. In the two single language views, you can hover your mouse pointer over a sentence in one language and the corresponding passage in the other language is automatically displayed nearby for ease of reference. Finally, we render the translated text progressively on a web page in order to make it more quickly available for the user to read, while other page elements are still being translated in the background.

    To change your view, just click on one of the four options in the “Views” section on the upper right part of the site:


    Side-by-side view:


    Top/Bottom view:


    Original with hover translation view:


    Translation with hover original view:


    Note: when you click on “Translate this page” while using Live Search, the web page will be opened in the Bilingual Viewer (in side-by-side view or the view you selected during your last viewing session).  Read more about that here

    Check out the bilingual viewer today if you haven’t played around with it before!  And as always, let us know your feedback :)

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