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Heads-up on machine translations

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  • Eric Britton
    Well, dear friends, I never thought I would end up pushing technology or software per se on all of you out there. And certainly not from the folks from Google.
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 17, 2008

      Well, dear friends, I never thought I would end up pushing technology or software per se on all of you out there. And certainly not from the folks from Google.  But the time has come for me to share my best thoughts with you about their and other’s translation engines.


      We have been using, normally struggling, with machine translation gizmos for more than a decade now, as you will see if you go to any of our websites, we attempt to provide one click translation to each page's content in half a dozen languages.  While this takes time here, I am able to note that about one in 10 of the people who come into our sites actually make use of the machine translations.  And since we are addressing a world in which not everyone is all that easy in English, especially for longer documents, this is always seemed like a reasonable way for me  to spend a bit of time and effort to make us all into better and more effective neighbors in an ever smaller world.


      But real breakthroughs have been made over the course of the last year or so, to the extent in which some of these translation engines (and they do compete with each other which of course is a fine thing) have developed to the point in which they provide an entirely workable draft versions of the original text.  Of course, this is not "translation" as one might hope that best.  But if you are curious and have a certain mental agility, they can tell you a great deal about what the original text is saying.


      So here is my recommendation to you for the easiest way to handle this at least for the time being.  If you use the latest versions of either Internet Explorer or Firefox, you can go to www.google.com  and download their toolbar (it is free, quick and safe).  And once you have done that, all you have to do is add their translate utility to the toolbar.  Thus far all that particular arrangement will do for the English language speaker  is, when you are looking at some language other than English, to provide you with a quick working version of the text in English, whether the original is in Spanish, French, German, Portuguese or any of a surprising number of other languages.


      For two-way translations you can call up http://translate.google.com/translate_t#  into your browser and off you go for either a pretty good translation of selected text for websites.  You will see how that works on the site itself, though I am sure a number of you are well aware of this and use either the Google engine or some other when it comes to dealing with text in languages that you may not entirely master.  I know I do.


      Here are the Languages currently available for translation: Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Filipino, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Ukrainian, Vietnamese.


      For testing purposes I have tried out several combinations with colleagues working in more need exotic languages (Slovenian, Hebrew, Arabic, Finnish, Danish) and though they have told me with a smile that this is not exactly their equivalent of Shakespeare, they nonetheless get the gist of what I am trying to say. (On the other hand my Japanese and Chinese friends were far more puzzled, and reserved. But let’s give the translators time. I have confidence that they will continue to shrink the planet in for once what are benevolent ways)


      I very much hope you find some use of this, and that may be in one more small way we are together taking steps toward a more unified, sustainable  and democratic world.


      With all good wishes,


      Eric Britton



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