You speaka da English? Phrases like that don't cut it when your company is doing business abroad. And these days, many small companies have manufacturers in Asia, sales offices in Europe, and programmers in Russia. No wonder the $10 billion market for translation services (or "localization" services, as the industry calls them) is expected to grow 25 percent by 2011. Computer translators have been known to sometimes churn out garbled phrases, and real people do a better job of handling linguistic nuances. But translation software is handy for short passages you need translated quickly. Here are some services, tech-based and human, that will translate just about anything.
From Russian With Love
To put these tools through their paces, we asked Eriksen Translations, a translation firm in Brooklyn, New York, for a complicated phrase it had recently translated from Russian. Then we plugged the Russian phrase into these translation services to see what they would come back with in English.
THE ORIGINAL RUSSIAN
THE HUMAN TRANSLATION
|We ask you to execute your portion of our business plans with attention to every detail -- especially regarding the ethical implications of your own and your group's actions.|
Best For: Translations on the go
What it is: Translation software for cell phones and hand-helds
What's cool: This software turns your phone into a translator so you don't have to lug a separate device. Cut and paste words and short text, and it will automatically translate them, highlighting any terms it doesn't recognize. Then, the software speaks the translation to help you learn the pronunciation. It translates between English and seven languages.
Drawbacks: It works only on phones that use a Windows operating system. The software is designed to translate basic phrases. It's not well suited for use on legal documents -- or, to be fair, our Russian sample.
Price: $119.95 for one language pair (versions that don't pronounce the text are $99.95) or $600 for all seven
Translation: We want that you executed its part our business plan, paying attention to each detail, and especially on ethical side your action and action of your group.
Best For: In-house projects
What it is: Software that translates e-mails, presentations, and websites
What's cool: With one click, this program translates documents and e-mails into one of 12 languages, including Chinese and Russian. You can go into the translation database and modify how certain words get translated, a helpful feature for companies that translate a lot of documents. For instance, employees could tweak the settings so that the word Bill (as in Gates) isn't converted to, say, the French term for invoice.
Drawback: Systran acknowledges that machine translation isn't 100 percent accurate and suggests that clients hire human translators to help convert industry-specific terms that the software doesn't recognize.
Translation: We want so that you would carry out your part of our business plans, paying attention to each component, and in particular down the ethical side of your actions and actions of your group.
Best For: Finding freelance translators
What it is: An online social network of human translators
What's cool: ProZ is a helpful resource for small translation projects. Companies post listings on the job board and receive bids from translators. You can also search its freelancer directory for, say, a certified Chinese translator with a speciality in human resources.
Drawback: Only paid members have access to a list of the going rates. Nonmembers may have trouble figuring out how much to offer.
Price: Posting to the job board is free. A corporate membership, which includes telephone support and access to the ProZ translator discussion boards, costs $320 a year.
Translation: We want you to fulfill your part of our business plans paying attention to each detail and especially to the ethical side of your actions and the actions of your team.
Best For: Chatting in other languages
What it is: An instant-messaging program
What's cool: It's a handy alternative to conference calls when there's a language barrier. The chat program can support 24 language pairs, including English to Chinese and English to Arabic. While chatting with one person or a group of people, you type a message in the chat window and hit Enter, and the translation appears. The program can automatically translate chat messages others have typed, too.
Drawback: Setting up the translation function isn't self-explanatory. First, you have to add a so-called chatbot to your contact list. Then, you invite the chatbot and your non-English-speaking cohorts to a group chat. (For a list of translation chatbots, see www.inc.com/keyword/apr08.)
Translation: We want you to fulfill its part of our business plans, paying attention to every detail, especially the ethical side of your actions and the actions of your group.
Best For: Free translations
What it is: A Web-based translator that converts text and entire websites into a variety of languages
What's cool: Babel Fish, which uses Systran's language database, supports 38 language pairs, including English to Dutch and French to Portuguese. It can even translate simplified Chinese into traditional Chinese. The site is easy to use -- you just type text or paste a Web link. You can also add a Babel Fish widget to your company's website to allow visitors to translate your site into 11 other languages.
Drawbacks: Though the program does an OK job of translating simple terms and short phrases, complicated sentences often get muddled. Babel Fish isn't something you can modify to translate technical or industry terms.
Translation: We want so that you would carry out your part of our business plans, paying attention to each detail, and in particular to the ethical side of your actions and actions of your group.