Just say the word – language translation software – Buyers Guide
Software-based language translation isn’t an exact science; since its inception, critics have been quick to jeer at examples of the technology’s occasionally mangled syntax. But beta versions eventually give way to release versions, which in turn lead to second- and third-generation products that are respectable. And that’s exactly what has happened with translation applications. If you work with international clients or want to expand your business’s reach by delving into foreign markets, these programs are worth looking into.
For starters, word-for-word translation tools–which often lead to curious or humorous translated sentences–are now being replaced by smarter, full-sentence tools that contextualize your words. And the German/Spanish/ French circuit has expanded in recent years: Nowadays, you can translate from and into dozens of languages, including some you never knew existed.
Improvements notwithstanding, the perfect universal translator does not exist. Trying to incorporate all of the dialects, slang, and variations of a language into one piece of software is a daunting task. Most translation programs can provide you with an overall idea of a document’s content, but it’s then up to you or a professional translator to fill in the blanks or polish details.
“There’s no one piece of software that I have seen that’s perfect,” says Suzanne Snygg, who tracks the industry for the San Jose, Calif., research firm Dataquest. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get close to parfait. Here’s a look at some of the products available today.
Power Translator 6.4 from Globalink (www.globalink.com; $149.95) can create translations of documents, e-mail, and Web pages in Spanish, French, German, and Italian. The software is bidirectional, meaning it can translate to and from English. It also works within word processing packages like Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect. Power Translator is easy to use, too: Just launch either word processor and type your document in English. When you click the Translate button, you’ll see a two-windowed screen that shows the original English text and the translated version.
Comprende is another Globalink product that provides real-time translation online. After paying the monthly fee of $30 a month for translating one language, or $100 a month for English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish (plus a limited setup fee of $100 to $250), you’ll find the system simple. You log on to your Globalink account and send your documents to the company’s servers. The documents are run through the Comprende translation engine and the results are sent back via e-mail.
Universal Translator Deluxe by LanguageForce (www.languageforce. com; $99) offers single-click translation in 33 languages, including Esperanto, Farsi, Swahili, and Tagalog. Unlike most translation programs, which use English as an intermediary between two foreign languages (if you’re translating German text in Japanese, it’s first translated from German to English and then to Japanese), Universal Translator Deluxe cuts the middleman out of the process. This omnidirectional translation is more direct, and therefore tends to be more accurate. The software also recognizes speech through microphone input (not included) using IBM’s ViaVoice technology.
Babel Fish Coabelfish.altavista. digital.com/cgi-bin/translate) is a free service that translates any word or sentence that you type in English, German, French, Italian, or Portuguese. (The translation engine gets its name from a character in Douglas Adams’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) It’s not designed for day-in, day-out business use, but it’s worth taking a look if you’d like an introduction to this technology.
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