Language Translation in Second Life

Some time ago I wrote about Google shutting down their free Translation API. This is the service Google provided and Second Life Viewers use to handle language translation. Google has now come out (8/24) with pricing for the Paid-Translation-Service-API. So, what happens to our viewers?

Google Translate

As It Is Now

It only works in Local Chat and is disabled by default. One enables it in Me->Preferences->Chat. At the bottom of the panel is a check box to enable machine translation.

Google Translate is pretty smart and recognizes various languages. You do not have to select languages. It takes your language from the viewer settings. It detects the language that needs to be translated. It is painless and provided you write grammatically correct sentences works pretty well.

The free service will cease operation in December 2011. See: Second Life Translators Dying We have about three months left.

The New Google Deal

Google’s translation service now handles over 50 languages. The announced cost for the service is US$20.00 per million characters. Anyone can sign up for use up to 50 million characters per month. Anything over that limit requires you contact Google. The daily limit is 2 million characters per day. See: Paid version of Google Translate API now open for business.

It looks like the service is simply metered on the number of characters. So… if it takes all year to use up a million characters, your annual cost would be $20. On average a word is 5 characters. So, $20 will by you about 200,000 words worth of translation.

From 7m/5d to 8m/30d, a couple of months, I have accumulated a little over 100,000 words in chat. It is hard to count without a load of clean up because chat has date and time added. The Date and Time are seen by MS Word as two words. So, there are 2 extra words per line that are likely never sent to Google for translation. Whatever, that suggests that I could have translation for about $20 per year and easily stay under the million character limit.

Linden Lab Plans

No one has officially said what the Lab is thinking or planning. But, Oz Linden has created a JIRA item (STORM-1577) : Convert chat translation to the (paid) version 2 of Google Translate. The item is mostly a plan for what should be done and what should be in the viewer controls.

Essentially the JIRA indicates the Lab will not be buying an API Key. They apparently do not plan to provide and bill for the translation service. Seems like ‘translation’ would be a good up sell item for premium accounts.

Other Services

Several people have suggested that the Lab just switch to Bing’s Translation service as it is still free. I suspect a number of services and games will make that change. As the load and cost of supplying the service shift to Bing, I suspect they will do the same thing and severely limit the translation API.

I think a change to Bing or other free services simply delays the problem.

Apparent Plan

It seems the current plan is for the Lab to step back. It looks like they will change the viewer to allow the user to pick Google or Bing. The user will need to get a key from Google or Bing and setup an API account. Once the key is in the viewer, the user can use translate just as they do now.

The challenge here is setting up the API account. I use a number of Google Services now. So, it is not much of a problem for me. But, this looks like a major problem for the Linden idea of simplifying SL for new users.

As best I can tell there is no API for getting API’s. This means Google’s console pages for the API control, that are designed by geeks for geeks, are going to be an obstacle for many SL users.


How this will shake out is hard to say. Someone like Ferd Frederix, maker of Ferd’s Free Translator, may figure out a handy solution. Someone may make a business out of getting API keys. Someone may make a business of selling translation via the SL viewer by setting up some type or proxy service. There are lots of possibilities. But, whatever happens translation is going to be more of a bother.

2 thoughts on “Language Translation in Second Life

  1. I seldom have need of the translator. When I have used it for product support the translation has been less than stellar. The best solution I have found is to paste the chat into Babblefish, they have a very good translator.
    My best advice for LL is to shop around and make a deal based on price and quality of service. Perhaps it would be best for LL to but a license and host it themselves.

  2. Pingback: #SL New Translate Panel

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