Chrome Adds Speech-to-Text for Google Translate

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Google recently added a new HTML 5 feature to the latest Chrome release that lets you use voice input with Google Translate instead of typing or using copy-and-paste. The new Google Translate voice feature only supports translating from English to other languages, although with some languages Google Translate can also pronounce the foreign words for you.

In my tests, the new voice input feature worked pretty well, although it did have a harder time with longer phrases. Sadly, Google Translate will not recognize naughtier words when using speech-to-text; you're still stuck with typing for that.

Getting Started

To try the new speech input feature with Google Translate, make sure you have the latest Chrome update, but the stable version only; the speech input feature is not available in the beta or developer channels. After that, head over to and select English in the "From:" drop down menu, and whichever language you would like to translate your words into in the "To:" menu.

Next, click on the microphone icon in the lower right corner of the text entry box, and a pop-up window will prompt you to speak into your computer's microphone. Make sure you speak as clearly as you can, using a moderately slow rate of speech. You don't have to speak too slowly, but if you speak too fast it will not work. I tried saying, "Where's the beef?" as quickly as I could, and Google Translate transcribed it as "Kirby."

In my tests, Google Translate identified simple words and phrases just fine such as "Birds," "The British are coming," and "Where is the bus stop?" Then, I tried this sentence pulled from a story in Thursday's New York Times, "Harper Lee, the tight-lipped author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,' issued a statement through her sister's law firm on Wednesday." And the English transcription I got was, "Harper Lee department office of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel to kill a mockingbird station is short statements to institute law firm on Wednesday." I tried speaking the same sentence several times at slower rates, but the results were always about the same: not bad, but not great.

Naughtiness a no-no

Unfortunately for the more juvenile among us, Chrome's new speech-to-text feature will not transcribe dirty words for you, at least not in Google Translate. When you try it all you get are a bunch of hashes where your colorful word should be, as you can see in the included image. Too bad, half the fun of learning new languages is finding out what the curse words are. On the bright side, you can still type the bad words into Google Translate to find their foreign equivalents.

Chrome's new speech input feature is not just for Google Translate but a new addition to Chrome. Although it is not clear whether third party Web developers can take advantage of the new feature for non-Google sites.

Chrome's speech-to-text feature was first unveiled in Chrome 11 beta in March. Google has offered speech-to-text for search on mobile devices since 2008.

Connect with Ian Paul ( @ianpaul ) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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