Google added Farsi to its translation service Thursday night, giving Iranians who are protesting what they claim was a rigged national election an additional tool to communicate directly with the rest of the world.
Farsi is the forty-second language to be added to Google Translate.
Franz Och, the principal scientist on the project, warned in a blog post that Farsi was added quickly and that the service would likely be imperfect.
Google began its machine translation initiative six years ago.
The Mountain View advertising giant relies on a method in which computers “learn” new languages by comparing identical texts written in different languages. This works well when there is lots of material available, for example for French or Spanish and less well for languages like Farsi.
Still, Ochs is hopeful the service will work well enough to help out journalists looking for information that is only available in Farsi. It will also help Iranians make sense of documents written in foreign languages. “Google Translate is helping break down the language barrier,” he said.