Package can't break language barrier

Package can't break language barrier

Multilingual translator tool has trouble with grammar and Web interface

By John Breeden II
GCN Staff

Power Translator Pro does not try to be all things to all people. I've seen translation packages that claim to handle two dozen or more languages, including obscure ones. Most such programs are jacks-of-all-trades and masters of none.

Their basic dictionary lookups lack the intuitiveness required of a good translator. In contrast, Power Translator sticks to the more commonly encountered French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

One feature splits your screen in two so you can type in English or another supported language in the upper window and see the words translated in the lower window on the fly. Ideally, you could even translate your typing for an audience during a presentation.

Despite the program's intuitiveness, it still fails to translate words in context correctly. I mostly tested Spanish, which after my native English I am most comfortable reading. Friends checked out the German and French interfaces for me.

Gender bender

In Spanish, the program had trouble remembering that an adjective follows the noun. If I typed 'the pretty girl' in English, the program should translate to the Spanish equivalent: 'the girl pretty.' More often than not it failed to do so.

One of the most difficult tasks is converting translations back to English correctly. Power Translator did only an average job at this. It converted South America in English to America del Sur in Spanish, then changed that back to America of the South in English.'' The Web page translation program was the weakest in the suite. All the minor mistakes in direct translation seemed to multiply in translating Web documents.

For example, on a Web page in Spanish about the movie 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape,' the software changed 'he' to 'it' and 'older' to 'larger.' The movie was described as 'a story about how it struggles with a relationship with a larger woman while it is being attracted by a younger girl.' That's not the plot of the movie I saw.

Power Translator Pro also has an e-mail module and a module for documents written in Microsoft Word or Corel WordPerfect. They worked about as well as the direct translator.

If you occasionally receive documents from or travel to areas where one of the supported languages is common, Power Translator Pro is a good choice. It probably won't garble things so much that you offend the locals, although you might raise a few eyebrows. Despite its faults, the program works better than any other translation tool I have tried.


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