[xplorer˛] — Automatic translation
home » blog » 20 April 2008
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"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening... But this wasn't it." — Groucho Marx

Automatic translation between languages has been one of the promises of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) field for many years — I think it dates back to Alan Turing in the 1950s — that never fully materialized. Rumor has it that one of the first translation programs that never got past the beta stage would take "high spirits" as input and after a translation to russian and back to english, would end up with "vodka" <g>

Nowadays there are various free online translation services like Babel Fish. I use this many times to translate emails that xplorer˛ users (spanish usually :) send to me in their native tongue asking for support. Que? Babelfish is a decent translator and can get english out of a number of languages including chinese and greek. It also goes the other way round, e.g. from english to german. I have used this functionality for the online version of the help file. If your english is not good, click on your country's flag halfway down this document for an automatic translation.

I can speak fluent greek and english and I am impressed with the accuracy of the translations served by BabelFish. It is not perfect but if you stick to formal slang-free language you can make perfect sense of what the text is trying to say.

Babelfish can also translate whole websites, but I find google more convenient in this respect. If you install google toolbar for internet explorer, as part of the package you get a context menu command Translate page into english. Today's demo shows how easy it is to decipher foreign language websites with it.

Google is using a different technique to translate text (black box correlation) but it is also quite decent. It can do as many languages — if not more. But it can only go into english, not the other way around, so if you are touring spain this summer you'll still need to keep babelfish handy <g>

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