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This article was published on: 02/01/2004


Web Review: Technology
Need Online Translations? Go Fish

Babel Fish translates your words into other languages to help you more effectively communicate with multicultural clients.


Web Site: AltaVista Babel Fish Translation

What the Site Offers

AltaVista Babel Fish Translation provides you with a useful tool to communicate with your non-English speaking or bilingual customers. You can use this site to translate words, phrases, or entire Web sites into 19 pairs of languages, including to and from English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, and Spanish. The site’s World Keyboard allows you to add accented or other special characters to your text for more accurate translations (but this feature is not available to Mac users). Also by adding Babel Fish to your site, your customers can translate your site into their preferred language.

However, the site warns that its translation service is intended to help you or your clients get the general meaning of the original text, but is not intended to produce a polished translation. For important materials, you should consult a professional translator. Also, because Babel Fish is an automated translator, it works best when the text has perfect grammar. If the text contains slang, misspelled words, poorly placed punctuation, or complicated sentence structure, you may not get the most accurate results. There also is a limit on how much you can translate. Babel Fish is designed to translate up to about 800 words or two standard, double-spaced pages (about 5K of text) at a time. If you exceed the limit or if you attempt to translate a very long Web page (over 5K), the site translates up to the limit and then stops.

Another important point to keep in mind is that the test translations we conducted from English to Korean showed that the Babel Fish translation produces familiar, instead of honorific, translations—an important distinction in many Asian languages. Familiar language is what you would use when you’re speaking to close friends or family. However, most business communications should be in honorific language, which uses a more formal form of address and diction to show respect. We believe that translations are most accurate with languages that use the Roman alphabet. Even when you’re able to get a translation from English to an Asian alphabet, we found that you can’t copy the translation into another platform unless you have software that recognizes the non-Roman characters.

Babel Fish is powered by SYSTRAN, a French company specializing in translation technology.

Valuable Site Features for Real Estate Professionals
  • Babel Fish Translation. Translating text is easy—paste or type text into the “Translate a block of text” window and select the languages you want (for example, from English to Spanish). You can create foreign-language customer handouts or communicate with non-English speaking customers via e-mail using this quick translation feature. However, the window has a 150-word limit, so you’ll need to translate longer documents in segments. To “Translate a Web page,” enter a URL and select the languages you want. Babel Fish not only translates that page, it continues to translate as you click through any links within that Web page to subsequent pages. The Babel Fish navigation stays at the top of the translated Web page so that you can easily navigate back to Babel Fish, and there’s also a link at the top to view the Web page in its original language.
  • AltaVista Toolbar. If you frequently translate text into other languages and don’t want to keep returning to the Babel Fish site, you can add the translation tool to your own Internet browser. (The toolbar is only available for Internet Explorer versions 5.0 and above.) In addition to adding a translate window to your browser, the toolbar also provides the AltaVista Web search engine and a pop-up blocker.
  • AltaVista Translate. You can put the power of translation at the fingertips of your Web site visitors with two free tools that allow them to view your site in their preferred language. The “Translate any text or pages” tool provides a Babel Fish Translation window on your Web site. This feature allows your site visitors to paste in a block of text or a Web page URL from your site to receive a translation into one of nine languages.
    The “Translate your page” tool enables your site visitors to translate the page they are viewing to eight other languages with just one click of a button.

    To add either tool to your Web site, simply click on the “I want this one!” button, which will provide you with the source code to put on your site.

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Suggest a Site For Review
Every week, REALTORŪ Magazine Online's Web review editor surfs the Internet to find sites useful to your business and off-hours lives. Have a favorite real estate Web site that you would like to see reviewed? Send your suggestions to All decisions on which sites will be reviewed are completely at the discretion of REALTORŪ Magazine Online's editorial staff. Please note: this column does not review individual practitioner or brokerage sites.

The column's focus includes free sites, as well as sites that charge for goods and services, but which still offer a free component of practical, sustained value to real estate practitioners, such as a free newsletter or regular news information.
REALTORŪ Magazine Online's "Web Review" summarizes the content of Web sites that may be of interest to members. NAR and REALTORŪ Magazine Online are not responsible for, and nothing in the Web site profile shall constitute NAR's or REALTORŪ Magazine Online's endorsement of, the web site, its content, products and services, or its provider. NAR and REALTORŪ Magazine Online believe the information contained in this profile was correct and accurate as of the time it was prepared, but do not warrant or guarantee the accuracy or completeness of that information and are not responsible for changes in the Web site. Members should conduct their own independent review of the Web site prior to any use of Web site, its content, products, or services to determine their suitability for the member's intended purpose.

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