Microsoft Translator Blog

Extended FAQ for the Microsoft Translator


1) Where can I find help with the translator service?

Help and FAQ are here.

2) How is the text translated?

Text is translated by computer software automatically and without human involvement. Web pages about computer-related topics are translated by Microsoft’s own state-of-the-art statistical machine translation technology which has been trained on large amounts of computer-related data. Web pages about other topics or into languages that are not included in Microsoft’s eight currently supported languages are translated by translation software from Systran.

3) Why is the quality of the translation not as good as I would like it to be?

Language translation is extremely difficult, as the meaning of words and phrases often depends on the context and specialized knowledge of the domain area or culture. Sentence structures and grammatical rules vary significantly between two languages, adding to the complexity of the translation challenge. Currently, it still requires human skills to translate sentences without errors. The quality of today’s most advanced translation software is well below the accuracy and fluency of a professional translator, and many sentences are simply not understandable. Researchers are continuously working on improvements, but it may be many years before high quality translation can be consistently offered by a computer. For this reason, we display both the original text and its translation, anticipating that you will find it easier to understand the translation, comparing it with the original content if needed.

Some of our translation results (usually for computer-related content) are based on training our translation system on large amounts of bilingual text. The more bilingual or multilingual text we can train our system on, the better our translation quality will become. If you have large amounts of translated text in any subject domain, which you would be willing to share with us, please click here to let us know.

4) Where can I report translation problems? Can I make corrections to the translation you offer?

Use the Feedback link in the Bilingual Viewer or the Microsoft Translator Beta home page to report problems. We are currently working on additional ways to collect your corrections.

5) What is the difference between rule-based machine translation and statistical machine translation?

1. Rule-based MT systems require extensive dictionaries containing syntactic, semantic and morphological data, and large sets of rules to translate a word or phrase. Of multi-language, broad domain systems, Systran is the industry standard and benchmark for automatic translation, and relies on rule-based technology developed by a large team of linguists over many years.  Other best-of-breed rule-based engines exist for specific language pairs, but their quality in a particular language pair does not necessarily scale to other pairs.

2. Statistical MT is based on machine-learning technologies, and relies on large volumes of parallel human-translated texts from which the MT engine can learn. This data must be obtained in every language pair and domain that the machine will be asked to translate in.  While the quality of current systems is limited by the availability of parallel data, the potential for language coverage and quality improvements is very promising, as multilingual content on the web increases, and new techniques for mining parallel data are discovered. 

6) Which language translations does Microsoft’s own statistical machine translation engine support?

Microsoft’s own translation system is used for translation from English into: German, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese (Brazilian), Chinese (simplified and traditional), and Japanese. Other languages are translated using software from Systran.

7) How long has Microsoft been working on the machine translation engine?

Microsoft has been developing statistical machine translation technology in its Research division for over 3 years, and other natural language and machine translation technologies for over 12 years.  While the original focus of this work was on Microsoft’s own localization needs, where this technology has been very successful enabling customers from many countries to access help files, knowledge base articles and MSDN articles, we are now pleased to bring it to you for general use. Research and development are ongoing.

8) Why aren’t all web pages translated?

There are a number of reasons why we may not be able to translate content on a certain web page:

· System requirements may not be met

· We do not transmit any https (secure web pages) content to our translation server, as this could be considered a phishing attempt. You still have the opportunity to navigate to an https site yourself and copy/paste paragraphs into the translation box, but in order to respect secure information 100%, we will not automatically send content that is protected by https to our server.

· Some page implementations do not make text accessible for translation (e.g., JavaScript-generated content)

· Flash and text on images cannot be translated.

· The Bilingual Viewer uses frames to display translations to you. Pages containing scripts which enforce that a web page is not displayed in a frame will not be translated.

9) When do I see a “Translate this page” link next to a Live Search result?

This link is available when Live Search has found a web page which is in a different language than the default (or chosen) language for your browser, and if we can offer a translation between the web page language and your default language.

10) How do I set my preferred translation language?

You can select a translation language on the Microsoft Translator Beta home page ( for your text or web page translations.

Once you see web page translations in the Bilingual Viewer, you may change your original and translation language.

The Language tab under Search Options (accessible through the “Options” link on the Live Search page) allows you to select a translation language into which pages are translated. This may be other than the default language of your browser.  It also allows you to tell the system to return results only in certain languages.

11) Can I set a preferred translation view within the bilingual viewer?

You can select a view from within the bilingual viewer. If you use a compliant browser, this preference will persist between viewing sessions.

12) How is this service similar to others in the market, and how is it different?

Like other systems in the market, the Microsoft system offers free text and web page translation. Microsoft’s web page translator differs from the competitors in its use of a unique Bilingual Viewer, which shows the original and translation side by side, and which customers have said they prefer over other viewing modes.   It also offers higher quality translations of computer-related technical text through the use of Microsoft’s own statistical MT technology.

Microsoft’s MT portfolio is focused on meeting customer needs through intuitive integration of MT into products and services that are part of our users’ everyday workflow, and creating as user-friendly an experience as possible.  As such, we welcome customer feedback and look forward to hearing suggestions.

13) Will I be able to translate documents within Word?

Currently, Microsoft Office allows you to translate words, phrases or documents.   For some languages, Office offers a screen-tip dictionary lookup for individual words. A “Translation” option that is available in the Office ribbon-UI as well as in the right-click menu allows the user to request translations of words, entire phrases, and even Word documents via the Research & Reference pane. There, users may select a translation language and enter sentences for translation into a query box, or they may click on a “Translate the whole document” button which will provide translations for short documents. 

14) I’ve read that there are five views offered with the bilingual viewer. Where is the fifth view?

This even had the creators of the Bilingual Viewer surprised :). They share two competing theories about what the mysterious 5th view might be, and you can help solve this mystery.  Please send your discovery or guesses here. We will publish all unique findings on this blog … and who knows—maybe you will uncover a secret 6th or 7th view?

15) When can I use the translator for language X?

We are constantly working to improve the quality of existing translations as well as those languages that are not ready yet. Keep an eye on this blog for announcements as to when new languages are added to the service.

16) I have a feature suggestion, what do I do?

Use the Feedback link in the Bilingual Viewer or the Microsoft Translator Beta home page to send feature requests. While we might not be able to respond personally, be assured that the team will be looking at each request that comes in.

17) What are the system requirements for the service?

Browser Version OS
Internet Explorer 7.0 Windows Vista & Windows XP SP2
Internet Explorer 6.x Windows XP SP2 & Windows 2003
Firefox 2.0 Mac OS X 10.4 & Windows XP SP2