A new feature was recently introduced on Gmail that may be enabled by users to translate email messages automatically on Gmail.
Update: The feature has since then been integrated into Gmail. It is no longer necessary to enable it in Labs before it can be used. You should see a translate option on top of all foreign language emails that you can use to translate it to another language.
If you don't see the link, click on the down arrow icon next to the reply button, and select "translate message" from the menu that opens. Translation of certain languages can be turned off again as well.
As you can see, options to translate foreign emails are displayed directly on Gmail. Update End
The feature is currently available in the Labs section in the Gmail settings.
The Message Translation add-on enables you to translate incoming email messages with a click of the mouse button. A "translate message to" option is displayed when you are viewing emails on Gmail that are not in your native language.
A user from the United States would see the option for emails not written in English while a German would see the option for all non-German emails that are in the inbox.
The feature has to be activated in the Labs tab of the Settings before it becomes available. It is possible to change the language that the message should get translated to in the same menu. The translated email will be displayed in the same spot that the original email occupied without reloading the rest of the page. The quality of the translations is equal to those of Google Translate.
A great way of testing the quality is to enter a text into Google Translate, translate that text to another language and translate that text back to the original language. The general consensus is that it is possible to understand the meaning of the original text in most cases.
But who needs the translation service? It might be interesting for users who receive lots of email messages in languages that they do not understand. But how likely is that scenario? The average Internet user receives the majority of emails in the native language and if that is not English then in English as well. It might be helpful in some cases, for example running an eBay auction and receiving an inquiry from a foreign language speaking user.
Yes, some Gmail users might find this new translation add-on handy. The majority of users on the other hand will most likely ignore it as its use case is limited.
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