Not all of us are dead clever. Not all of us are tri-lingual masters of the spoken word. After a few pints, some of us can barely speak the one language. Luckily, the world of the PC specialises in programs that make us look more intelligent than we actually are; Focus’s Language Translator being a case in point.
Throw text at the program in any one of five different languages and it will translate the words directly into English with a single mouse-click. What’s that you say, Sooty? Google does that as well? Yes, we’re aware of this fact, as are the good people at Focus, who promise a greater accuracy and utility than your average online translation service. Now put that bloody wand down before you have someone’s eye out with it, and we’ll see if these claims bear out.
Language Translator’s interface is an exercise in simplicity, with just two windows; one for the original text and one to display the resulting translation. There’s a drop-down menu which lets you choose from Spanish, French, German, Italian or Portuguese, to can be translated into English, or you can reverse that process.
The program lets you type text in manually, or you can drag and drop text files directly into the window for convenience. The only downside here is that depending on exactly what application created the text file, you might get gunk at the beginning and end of the document which needs to be deleted. Language Translator also integrates itself with Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect 8 or 9, so you can use it within these programs.
The overall quality of the translation is fairly good, although there are quirks. For example, we discovered when playing with simple phrases that if you type in “the train station” the program returns “la station de train”, when clearly it should be “la gare.” The strange thing is, if you type in “la gare” in reverse translation mode, it does indeed produce “the train station.”
Language Translator also provides mini-toolbar modes; one translates anything in the Windows clipboard automatically and another performs the wholesale translation of Web pages. The latter supports Internet Explorer, Netscape Navigator and the AOL browser. The clipboard toolbar did suffer from splurges of random characters when we tested it out cutting text from e-mails in Outlook Express, but the Web toolbar is undeniably handy. Just one click and a couple of seconds’ wait and the fully translated page materialises before you.
As with Google, the Web page translations are pretty rough and literal, but they’re clear enough to get the gist of what’s being said. Comparing Google and Language Translator directly, we found that Language Translator was a touch faster. However, in terms of the accuracy of the translation, there was little difference. Both were quite clumsy and if Google made a better job of one sentence, Language Translator would process the next one with slightly more aplomb. Of course, Google has the advantage of being free.
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