One of the best stories I have from my old mainframe programmer/analyst days in college was working with my friend Ming Fan, who was a foreign student working as a Grad Assistant in the same department. One day he leaned over and shouted the following joke over the loud rumble of the big blue mainframe boxes:
Q: Hey, what do you call a person that speaks two languages? A: BilingualQ: What do you call a person that only speaks one?A: An American!
I had to look at him and hang my head… guilty as charged. Although, I’m pretty good at barking out “Dos Cervezas, por favor!!” or when I was stationed in South Korea, I became pretty good at saying “Maekju hana juseyo”. So, I’m fluent in beer, but that’s about all. In my professional life, this has meant that all those articles that pop up in my RSS feed that are in French have been skipped (unless ‘biere’ appears in the title.)
Enter my old American friend “Google” to save the day. With Google Translate, combined with the Google Toolbar, I can have webpages translated on the fly, and will results that don’t make you giggle — well, usually don’t make you giggle anyway. Here is an example of an outstanding bilingual blog, Heavy Mental, that discusses technology and social issues in both English and French (but not always in both.)
I’ve now used the Google Translate resource a few times and have been very impressed with the results. You do get the occasional translation that makes you giggle — (such as one of my favs: “thank you @clarinette02 for drawing our atten-tion is over” — but, nothing that compared to the early days of translating text I used to get with tools like AltaVista’s (now Yahoo’s) Babel Fish. Now, I get webpages translate right on the spot, with the formatting of the page still intact, and with translations that are understandable, even by my limited American vocabulary!
Google Translate has a variety of different tools that you can use to add to your website and have it translate your site using widgets, and other resources that allow you to cut and paste, or upload documents and have them translated. My favorite so far has been the toolbar auto translate option. The only drawback so far is that I typically use Google Chrome as my web browser, and for some reason the Google Toolbar STILL DOESN’T WORK IN CHROME!! (Sorry about that… I’m still having issues of Google releasing browser add-ons that don’t work in its own browser.) If you want to use Google Translate in Chrome, you can add the extension to the browser.
So fire up your Internet Explorer or FireFox browser with the Google Toolbar and expand your reading to include all those wonderful blogs that don’t cater to those of us that only speak one language.