Translation software still fails - badly

New translation software is designed to make the world your customer, but it's still a long way from being fluent.

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DUBAI (FORTUNE Small Business) -- My public relations agency, NettResults, based in Irvine, Calif., and Dubai, employs 18 people speaking a total of nine languages. Through a partner, we work with 58 other agencies in 26 countries. So I was excited to test three new language-translation software suites: If they worked, I could e-mail clients myself and cut down on the pricey human translators we use every day.

First I tried Magellan Pro ($2,000, Language Engineering Co.). It's a slick-looking product with the widest scope of languages. We could translate multiple documents with one click and create custom dictionaries.

I sent translations of marketing text to offices in France, Germany, and Italy. The French was described as "very poor." The German was "a disaster." The Italian response: "You made my day ... I really laughed a lot."

Next was Translation Suite ($150, Idiomax). Idiomax claims to be able to recognize the structure of sentences and correct their grammar. It can be integrated with Microsoft (MSFT, Fortune 500) Office applications. I sent translations to offices in France, Italy, and Spain and asked for ratings, with ten the maximum. The highest score, from the French: two.

Finally I tried Premium Translator World Pack ($850, Systran), the only software with an Arabic option. We translate 15 pages of press releases between English and Arabic every day, so it has to be right. Sadly, I could hardly understand the Systran translations.

Bottom line: These applications were easy to use, but for businesses working across borders, I recommend waiting for better results. To top of page

Have you tried these or other translation software? What did you think?

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