I hadn’t noticed that Google have created their own version of the Babel Fish site, until today.
Cool, I thought. Let’s give it a whirl.
Given this English text:
My nose is running. Somebody please stop it!
Google Translate came up with:
Meine Nase läuft. Somebody please stop it!
Hmmm. I’d heard that many languages were incorporating English words and phrases, much to the annoyance of linguists. Is Google to blame, I wonder?
OK, let’s give Alta Vista‘s site a go at it. Same English sentence (which you’ll need to paste and make the to/from language translation selection), different result:
Meine Nase läuft. Jemand gefallen stoppen sie!
OK, Google. Back to the drawing board. But plaudits for being able to submit the entire deal – text to translate plus to/from language selection – in a single URL.
Actually, all kidding aside, this is a pretty well thought out service with some minor teething problems.
It translates on the fly so you can tweak your translation to make it work better (provided you know the target language well enough) by simply reversing the translation and then attempting to fix the problem, all the while keeping an eye on changes to your original text (which is now the output rather than the input).
So, for example: “My dog’s got no nose. How does he smell? Something awful.” is translated into German as: “Mein Hund hat keine Nase. Wie sieht er riechen? Etwas Schreckliches.”
Reverse the translation: “My dog has no nose. As he sees smell? Something terrible.” and you can immediately see the problem. Knowing enough German to be able to fix the issue, you produce: “Mein Hund hat keine Nase. Wie riecht er? Etwas Schreckliches.”
Even Babel Fish likes it: “My dog does not have a nose. How does it smell? Something terrible.”
If you already know the language, why would you want to use this service? Because it can do the translation, warts and all, far faster for a large block of text than we humans. I’m even thinking of using it myself for translations of blocks of text I’m planning to create. If all I need to do is edit then my time is well spent.
I missed the fact that when the output is English, there’s an option to have the translated text spoken aloud – and it’s pretty good quality. Better than Stephen Hawking’s artificial voice. He should get in touch with Google.
But he mustn’t mind being given an American woman’s voice…