In news that will be welcomed by many medieval and ancient history scholars, Google Translate has added Latin to its list of languages that can be automatically translated to other languages. The website announced the news today in a post written in Latin, entitled “Veni, vidi, verba verti” (I came, I saw, I translated the words) .
The statement, written by senior engineer Jakob Uszkoreit, continued: “Today, we announce the first language translation system by which no native speakers now make use of: the Latin. Being but a few speak Latin daily, year by year more than a hundred thousand American students receive the National Latin Exam. Besides many people all over the world study Latin.”
Google also notes that this service compliments the tens of thousands of books with Latin passages that it has made available through its Google Book Search section. Google has also added a Latin text-to-speech function, which can help people to hear or pronounce the language.
This marks first time that Latin can be translated by a major website. Google Translate already offers services in more than fifty other languages, including Basque, Welsh and Thai. In an article in the New York Times earlier this year, Princeton Professor David Bellos described how Google Translate works: “Instead of taking a sentence to pieces and then rebuilding it in the “target” tongue as the older machine translators do, Google Translate looks for similar sentences in already translated texts somewhere out there on the Web. Having found the most likely existing match through an incredibly clever and speedy statistical reckoning device, Google Translate coughs it up, raw or, if necessary, lightly cooked.”