We all (at least the English speakers among us) tend to assume the language of our most visited pages to be English. When we do occasionally run into a foreign-language page, it leaves us feeling totally flummoxed and suddenly quite aware of just how diverse our world can be.
For instance, check out this blog post from a fellow Windows Live user named Katsuyoshi in Japan (click to enlarge):
Good luck reading that. Take your time, I’ll wait.
Enter Windows Live Translator, a companion service that speaks just about every language you can imagine. You just plug in the source text, configure the input and output languages, and it does all of the linguistic heavy-lifting for you. If we were living in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, then this would be our Babel fish.
To use WL Translator, just copy and paste some text into the left-hand box, set your language options, and click Translate. The translated text is output via the right-hand box.
Copying and pasting is great for small amounts of text, but what about translating an entire web page or (web-based) e-mail message? Fortunately, you can plug in the page’s URL, and WL Translator can translate the whole page in context, complete with any links you might choose to follow.
Here’s our friend Katsuyoshi’s blog entry after being passed through the bowels of WL Translator.
Notice how the interface displays the original page in the left pane and the corresponding translation in the right pane. Nice. Best of all, scrolling between the two panes is synchronized, so you can see how the service translated each part of the page. If a side-by-side view isn’t convenient, then you can choose from several other view options, including top/bottom, translation hover, and original hover.
If you’re a Windows Live Toolbar user, your life just got even easier, because the toolbar offers a Translator button, which provides one-click access to WL Translator (thanks to fellow WL user Jeffrey for this tip). Click the button to quickly translate the current page (you may still need to adjust the input and output language once you see the translated page).
IE8 users rejoice! Thanks to those spiffy new accelerators, you can access the WL Translator without ever leaving your current page (and again thanks to Jeffrey for this tip). Jeffrey has an excellent post on this feature, and I suggest you immediately read it after finishing here.
I’ve found this feature to be particularly handy for translating foreign-language elements within my web-based WL Hotmail interface, which doesn’t quite work properly with the other incarnations of the WL Translator tools. Since it never really takes you away from the current page, you don’t have to jump through all of the hoops associated with the secure login page.
Is the translation always perfect? Absolutely not. But it’s more than passable for the casual reader’s everyday translation needs.