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Fish and Words

29 August, 2009 (12:51) | Language | By: pooq

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From time to time there is the problem to translate an interesting text which unfortunally is written in a foreign language. Babelfish ( can to some degree translate those texts in a very basic form.

The user interface is kept quite simple as the online translator just needs two pieces of information. The text which needs translation could either be written or copied into the textbox or the user can enter the URL of a target website to be translated in whole. Then the user chooses the current language and the destination language wanted for the wanted translation. With this information Babelfish generates a very simple translation where the result is a word by word translation of the original text. Therefore it can hardly be used for further publishing as syntax and grammar are not treated properly and ambiguous words are translated wrongly in many cases. Words the Babelfish does not know are not translated at all.

Each translation mode (textbox or whole website) has a language selection of it’s own. So the user must be careful to pick the right one even though they are marked by a coloured area. A greater drawback is that not all languages could be translated to each other directly. This is not a problem with the english language but to e.g. translate from Greek or French to German it is needed to translate to English first and then translate the result to the target language. Sometimes Babelfish produces an error notice when translating a text. But in most cases the translation will work properly by just retrying the failed translation.

Usually Babelfish works very quickly and is above that free of charge. The resulting translations are of poor quality but in most cases allow to get at least a basic understanding of the content of a text in foreign language.

This website provides quick and free translations of text in many different languages.

The quality of the resulting texts is good enough to get a basic understanding of the content of the text but not useful for further publishing.

For translations involving two languages which are not English it is a problem that there has to be done a manual intermediate step. If an intermediate step is needed that should be done automatically by the program.

In the end Babelfish is a word by word translator. Not more but not less. The texts generated often sound no better than the early manuals of far eastern cheap electronic. Nevertheless they are often good enough to get a rough understanding of foreign texts. This could be a good help and the user should not expect more than that.