Accessing Language Translation Web Services in Plain English | 2 | WebReference

Accessing Language Translation Web Services in Plain English | 2


Accessing Language Translation Web Services in Plain English [con't]

Some Other Contenders

Of course, Google Translation is not the only fish in the sea.

Yahoo! Babel Fish

Yahoo! Babel Fish is another excellent translation tool. It is named after the enigmatic Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy creature of the same name: a small yellow fish that, when placed in the ear, translates any dialect into the wearer's own language!

While there is no such earthly creature, the message is that Yahoo!'s translation services may be the next best thing. Personally, I don't find Babel Fish translation services to be quite as powerful as Google's. While they offer similar functionality and components, the translation engine just seems a bit weaker. Using my web site quote as reference, Babel Fish came up with the following English-to-French translation:

A quality instrument is like a race car.
When you get behind the wheel,
you don't drive it around the city at 35 miles an hour.
You take it out on the open road,
open it up, and see what she can do.      - Rob Gravelle

Babel Fish translated that to this:

Un instrument de qualité est comme une voiture de course.
Quand vous obtenez derrière la roue,
vous don' ; commande de t il autour de la ville à 35 milles à l'heure.
Vous la prenez dehors sur la route ouverte,
ouvrez-la vers le haut, et voyez ce qu'elle peut faire. - Rob Gravelle

The text lost some cohesion compared with Google's translation. In addition to some strange partial words ("don ;", "t il"), Babel Fish also got creative by adding superfluous words. For example, the phrase "ouvrez-la vers le haut" translates to "open it upwards" -- odd, considering that no direction is mentioned in the original text!

Smart Link's ImTranslator

Founded in 1993, Smart Link Corporation offers various web-based translation tools and software, such as virtual keyboard, translator, dictionaries, spell-checker and others. Starting with the new century, the company has increasingly focused on the Web by launching several online translation services. According to the company, these sites attract more than 5 million visitors, and perform about 35 million translations every month.

The site that I tried offered an intriguing feature that allows you to compare its results to Google's translation of the same text. You can then select the version that you prefer:

Figure 8: ImTranslator vs. Google Comparison Screen

I was quite impressed by their translation. My only beef is that it used a feminine pronoun in the third-to-last word, when the word "racer" is masculine. Still, I can't really fault their translator because I used a feminine pronoun myself: "see what she can do"! It is strange that the Google translation does not match what I got directly from the Google site. They wouldn't be doctoring the text in order to make their own standout would they? Naaah. A company would never offer anything but the absolute, unadulterated truth, right?

Another curiosity is that I was able to find two versions of their ImTranslator Widget. One is hosted under Google Gadgets, the other, which links to the above site (at is apparently powered by Google. "As long as it works," I say!

Fun with Automated Translations

I would be remiss if I didn't pay tribute to the number of web sites that have cropped up to revel in the inconsistencies produced by automated web translation services like Google's. One such site is Carl Tashian's Lost in Translation page. On it, you can have text translated back and forth among five different languages. The result? A "half-English, half-foreign, and totally non sequitur response that bears almost no resemblance to the original"! It's like the game that kids used to play where you filter the same story through several of your classmates (like the Dasani water commercial). The payoff after it's been filtered through each person is when you compare the last person's story with the original. It's always a hoot to hear what you wind up with!

To give you a sampling of the hilarity, here is the translation of the line: "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore.":

If the moon fixes its eye like a great vector of Fleischpie of the vector of Pizzapie, is the lover. 

Closer to home, I once had the enlightening experience of translating a Russian web site's review of my band using Babel Fish. I can't read Russian, so I don't know what the original text said exactly, but I hope that it was positive:

Here about whom I cannot say one curved quip, so this about the guitarist: man - master of its matter.

Now that's my kind of review...I think(?). The review went on to comment on our vocalist's "stunted peeps".

All kidding aside, the sequential running of text through multiple languages using automated translation services or applications is a misuse of the technology. When used properly, web-based translation services are a viable low-cost means of providing multilingual capabilities to your web pages.

Have a suggestion for an article topic? Do you have a product or service that you'd like reviewed? Email it to Rob .

Rob Gravelle combined his love of programming and music to become a software guru and accomplished guitar player. He created systems that are used by Canada Border Services, CSIS and other Intelligence-related organizations. As a software consultant, Rob has developed web applications for many businesses and recently created a MooTools version of PHPFreechat for ViziMetrics. Musically, Rob recently embarked on a solo music career, after playing with Ivory Knight since 2000. That band was rated as one Canada's top bands by Brave Words magazine (issue #92) and released two CDs. Rob's latest, entitled KNIGHTFALL, was a collaboration between himself, the former Ivory Knight vocalist, and legendary guitarist/producer, Jeff Waters of Annihilator fame. Rob is available for software projects and recording session work. to inquire, but note that, due to the volume of emails received, he cannot respond to every email. Potential jobs and praise receive highest priority!

Original: March 26, 2010