Translation User Experience: Guest Blog

Andrea Jessee is the Senior Program Manager on the Microsoft Translator team in charge of the user experience.  Today's guest blog is how the team thinks about user experience with translation. 

Creating a better user experience

We have shown the suite of Microsoft Translation services at various shows and tech events. The number one question we get is: Show me how it translates <some interesting example sentence>. Sometimes we do well, other times the system behavior is (probably) as expected: meaning – we choke on the (possibly highly ambiguous) sentence and produce something funny. We know that the hard problem of Machine Translation has not been solved yet. We are working tirelessly on translation quality improvements and expansion, but it remains a hard nut to crack – for anyone in the field. Why – if we know it – don’t we wait for the major break-through instead of releasing a service that is far from perfect? The answer is simple: We recognize the growing need for such a service. In this era of the ever-expanding internet which is blissfully ignoring any geographic borders, in times where information retrieval must cross language boundaries to ensure access to the bigger picture, in recognition of the fact that English is a dominating language in our “world-wide-web”, we simply must respond to the resulting needs today. And so we do … like other respectable providers in the field, we offer a free service to the best of our current technological and scientific abilities.

We take it one step further

In addition to our investment in the core translation technology, the Microsoft Translator team has spent a significant amount of effort on the creation of a user experience which acknowledges and mitigates current limitations of raw translation quality, maximizing its usefulness to our users. This is especially highlighted in our distinguished Bilingual Viewer: Its commitment to provide ease of access to original and translation language and its one-click views customizations, all enhanced by parallel highlighting, synchronized scrolling and navigation functions has received raving reviews.

A user-friendly UI concept is only one of our approaches to bridge the gap between a current need for our service and the current limitations. In focus groups we have learned that ease of access to our service is being expected from a wide range of other Microsoft properties. Hence, a seamless integration into other communication and authoring tools became a vital part of our mission to create a better user experience for the consumers of o translation service.

The Windows Live Translator toolbar button gives immediate access to the Bilingual Viewer experience from wherever you are on the web. Our friendly Translation Bot TBot can either translate text for you using the Windows Live Messenger, or serve as your personal chat interpreter between you and your international buddies. Internet Explorer 8 has the translation service right built into its Accelerators, offering text or full page translations with as much as a mouse hover or click. If you wish to use our translation service directly from Office Word, you can do this today without the need to wait for a new Office release. And yes – full document translation is delivered in bilingual view. Of course, the same functionality is also available to you in Office Outlook, if you have chosen to display it in Office Word mode. We also would like site owners to benefit from our offering if they’d like to make their pages available with free translations. A simple copy/paste action is all it takes to Add our web page translator to your site.

In further acknowledgement of the limitations of machine translation, we also offer a direct link to an affordable professional on-demand translation team, delivering human translations sometimes in a matter of hours.

And we are not done yet … please stay tuned for new releases of more and better features, experiences, and integration scenarios. And please do continue to post your wishes to our blog. We read all your posts carefully and will factor in your feedback in the planning of our next design steps…

Thank you!

Andrea Jessee, MSR-MT User Experience PM

Comments (9)

  1. Quote: The number one question we get is: Show me how it translates <some interesting example sentence>… We know that the hard problem of Machine Translation has not been solved yet. We are working tirelessly on translation quality improvements and expansion, but it remains a hard nut to crack – for anyone in the field.

    One way to improve machine translation is to write clear source text. I would like to suggest that the Microsoft Translator team educates people on how they can optimise text for machine translation.

    For readers of the MSR-MT blog, I recommend ‘The Global English style guide: writing clear, translatable documentation for a global market’ by John R Kohl, 2008 (ISBN 978-1-59994-657-3). The book explains how to write text that is optimised for machine translation. Although the book’s title contains the word ‘documentation’, the guidelines apply to most business texts.

    Best regards,


  2. Andrea Jessee says:


    thank you for the recommendation. We do, indeed, apply such guidlines to the authoring of our own documentation. But what a great idea to make something like that available to our consumers, especially those who want to use our service to translate their own sites.

  3. Tony Roder says:

    I want to create two icons on the desktop, one of which will open the Translator for English-French, and the other for French to English. Can this be done and how?

    Thank you for any and all useful information.


  4. Hi Tony,

    A few blog posts ago we outlined the parameters that you can pass to the site to achieve this.

    Here is the blog post:

    As you can see, you can create a desktop shortcut that points to something like

    and that should work for you.

    Let us know if you need further help.



    Microsoft Translator

  5. Rick Smith says:

    I think the limitations of machine translation are a huge issue at the moment, its great that these are being addressed and the outcome can only be a better translation systems for end users. The suite of Microsoft Translation services looks nice and although it’s got a long way to go MS is onto a good thing here, with more input and dollars spent we should see some breakthoughs in machine translation. I guess for now the professional on-demand translation service is good for those that can afford or budget for it.

  6. Even if the system sometimes chokes on the highly ambiguous sentences and produce funny translations, you have made a great progress. Keep improving it and over time, it will reach near perfection.

    People should have restraint while criticizing a work-in-progress. Nothing on earth started out with perfection. Patience is needed on our part to support this web service and let it grow.

  7. computerproducts says:

    The limitations of machine translation is an issue presently, but it can overcome in the near future.

  8. francisco says:

    que todo el mundo se una a el apoyo a haiti, princiupalmente a puerto principe

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