The translator
July 3, 2000 6:19 PM   Subscribe

The translator is a pretty good alternative to babelfish. This very site looks pretty good, and I can finally read my favorite spanish-language blog. Is computer power/translation programming advancing enough to enable real-time translation, or will this continue to be the impossible dream? I've always wanted an icq client that would let me chat with a spanish speaker without any lag. Of course, if that were possible, my cell phone would do real time vocal conversions as well. Someday, I guess, someday.
posted by mathowie (7 comments total)
WIRED's cover feature a couple of months ago dealt with machine translation... there are about half a dozen decent articles online (in English).

'sthe idioms, though, that cause the trouble. And because all the money in translation is corporate, you're more likely to have on-the-fly translation of press releases before basic conversations. And to be honest, I'm glad. Because unless you learn something of a foreign language, you don't really understand how the speakers think. I wouldn't go as far as the Sapir-Whorf theory, but there are certain attitudes which extend from the quirks of your own language -- not just the distinction between concepts, but syntactic things, such as the place of a verb in a sentence, or whether an adjective precedes or follows a noun.

(And, from experience, it's a sign that you're making progress in a language when you can stop talking, and start to chat.)
posted by holgate at 7:13 PM on July 3, 2000

Both of these translators (GO and Babelfish) say they're powered by Systrans, and they both translated my site identically (in French, and they both did a mediocre job) except the former messed up some of my site's formatting. I'm sticking with the fish. It is named after a concept that came from one of my favorite series of books after all.
posted by deckard at 7:28 PM on July 3, 2000

Forget the useful application of translation software - is there a version of The Babelfish Butcher yet?
posted by dogwelder at 7:41 PM on July 3, 2000

Here's mathowie's original post run from English - > Espanol -> English:

The translator of is a quite good alternative to babelfish. This same site watches quite good, and I can finally read favourite my blog of the Spanish-language. The computer power/translation is programming to advance enough to allow the translation in real time, or this one will continue being the impossible dream? I have always wished to a client of icq that would let to me chat with a Spanish loudspeaker without no delay. Of course, if that outside possible one, my telephone of the cell would also make vocal conversions in real time. Someday, I conjecture, someday. fixed by the mathowie in 6:19 P.m. PST

The results page there caches your original text, so you have to cut it out of the textbox, hit back and paste it in to the 1st page to get it to really retranslate from spanish to english. I was really amazed before I figured this out.
posted by cervixLemma at 11:14 PM on July 3, 2000

Lotus announced something along the lines of what Matt was talking about at the end of May. They have a Domino server component that's a real-time language translator to their IM product Sametime and corporate users of Lotus Notes (for e-mail).
posted by tomalak at 9:00 AM on July 4, 2000

Like holgate sez, language plays a huge part in how we think; people don't dream the same dreams the world over. From all I read, puns and wordplay influence our thought quite a bit, on the subconscious level.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:16 PM on July 4, 2000

Translators in theory are a great concept but I have found them to be at best clumsy when they are implemented because they have a hard time translating context, they tend to translate word for word what was written leading to some very odd sentences.

Something that should have been translated like this:

We took advantage of the results to do a little cleaning around Subte and eliminated some unnecessary links.

Got translated into:

We took advantage of the turn out to do a little of cleaning in unnecessary Subte and to eliminate links.

And I mean, calling Subte unnecessary, although true, is not really correct.

Recently, Lotus announced that it had developed “smart” translating software that would reside in the server and would translate anything from email to IM to web pages and other documents. I’m kinda hopeful for something like that but at the same time I’m afraid that servers will determine my IP and serve me Salon or MetalFilter in Spanish.

By the way, sorry for any DNS issues you might have gotten trying to reach but we thought the 4th of July holiday would be a good time to switch servers since not a lot of people would see the page. Oops…

posted by hoser at 10:25 AM on July 5, 2000

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