Google now offers instant machine translation in Google Talk, a step on the road to the ultimate Babel Fish.
The new service is used by adding a translation bot to a Google Talk chat, for example adding firstname.lastname@example.org provides a translation from English to Chinese. The bot can be used as a direct look up tool for a translation, or in a group chat for translation on the fly as part of a conversation. For a two way conversation two bots are required, one for the English to other language translation, and one for the other language back into English.
A full list of languages available (and codes) can be found on the Google Talk blog here. The service also supports translation from non-English languages to other non-English languages as well, for example French to German and back again.
Lets hope that unlike the Babel Fish in Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy that Google Talk doesn’t start any conflicts; given that the service is pulling data from Google Translate some of those translations may end up being rather interesting to say the least.