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Iran: Google's translator and Khamenei's head

  • Story Highlights
  • Contested presidential election in Iran has led to widespread protests, turmoil
  • Government has restricted coverage by news media and social networking sites
  • Google: New service allows users to translate into English and vice versa

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(CNN) -- Internet giant Google on Friday started translating Persian, also known as Farsi, in a move that could dramatically help spread information on the Iranian election crisis, but the service is far from perfect.

World news events of the past had few reporting electronically, but hundreds are in Iran.

World news events of the past had few reporting electronically, but hundreds are in Iran.

Badi Badiozamani, who has been helping with translations at CNN, said it was good at translating short phrases like "Hi, how are you?" but struggled with longer sentences and terminology.

He said when asked to translate "Mr. Khamenei, people will put you in your place", the Google translator came up with: "Mr. Khamenei, people instead of your head you can (and then an indecipherable word)."

Badiozamani added: "The machine can never replace the human mind. The Persian language is very poetic, full of metaphors and poetry and expressions. You give it to the poor machine, it's not a person or a poet, it has not got a heart. So the end result is disastrous."

Peter Norvig, Google's research director, admitted to CNN that the service was "not perfect yet."

Norvig said the program "tried to do the best job possible." Video Watch Norvig talk about Google's Farsi translator features »

Norvig said Google had pushed out the service early because of the situation in Iran but it was not a political move.

"We are just offering access to information."

Last week's contested presidential election has led to widespread protests and turmoil in the country.

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Tens of thousands of Iranians have demonstrated in daily protests since, and the government has restricted coverage by news media and social networking sites.

Google said it is working to add 40 more languages that Persian can be translated into.

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