Gmail users can now automatically translate messages they receive into 41 languages.
The new feature is available to individual Gmail users, as well as to people who use it as part of the Apps collaboration and communication suite for organisations.
The availability of automatic translation within Gmail is expected to simplify communications among people who speak different languages by letting them compose messages in their native tongue.
In the Apps context, the feature should make it easier for organisations that do business in different countries to communicate internally with their employees and externally with partners and customers.
Google acknowledges that its machine translation technology isn't perfect, but maintains that, even if mistakes creep into the text, recipients should be able, at the least, to get the gist of a message.
Recipients can also toggle between the original and translated versions of a message.
Individual Gmail users and those in the Apps Standard Edition can turn on this feature by going to the 'settings' menu and clicking on the 'Labs' tab, which is where Google places early release, experimental features that the company warns "may change, break or disappear at any time".
Those using Gmail within Apps Premier and Apps Education must have their domain administrators enable Gmail Labs in their control panel.