Monday, October 20, 2003
We're secretly using Babelfish
Subject: RE: updated translations of conman.org into 8 languages [although I never responded or sent them email in the first place]
Date: Mon, 20 Oct 2003 03:36:29 -0400
Could you please check our updated translations of conman.org into eight languages, if you don't mind, at: http://www-topsites.com/update.htm?d=conman.org&v=1010&e=w&p=t
Do they look OK? If so, there's no need to reply. Simply paste the following code onto your web pages. This will make your web site readable by the 90% of the world who can't read English (for only $5 a month).
<script src="http://www-topsites.com/t.js"> </script>
As unsolicited email goes, it could be worse (“Increase your mortgate by 3″ with all natural ingredients!!!!!!!!”) and I am curious as to the translations they've supposedly done.
So I check.
And yes, there on the page is Conman Laboratories in eight different languages (and I must say I do like the look of the Japanese, Chinese and Korean versions). But not everything is translated: ragtag, bug-free and what I can only assume are misspelled English words that didn't get translated. This to me screams “machine generated” translations—come on, if Google can fix my spelling, and even I can handle misspellings it can't be all that hard to handle.
Scrolling to the bottom of the page are some rather interesting notes:
- Costs: We charge $5 a month for our translation services. After a free trial period, we will contact you to see if you would like to continue.
- Copyright: You are welcome to try out our translation links but you may not copy our actual translations of your pages unless you prepay a year's translations services.
- Pasting the code: You must paste our code while you can see your html code and it must look exactly like this after you have pasted it. Some web design software require that you first paste the code into your Notepad program, then copy and paste it into your html code. (This removes html formatting.) The code will not work if your visitors can see the code.
- Frames: The translation links may not work properly when you put them on framed pages.
- Non-English pages: The links translate English in other languages. If you click on them while viewing an already translated page (e.g. if you try to translate German in Spanish), you will get an error message.
- Manual Translations: If you prefer, we can also translate, edit and design your multilingual site entirely by hand. That gives you more control and accuracy but it increases your cost to 29-cents per word per language. (The 29-cent covers both translation and html design.)
Five bucks a month? That, I can see for a site that changes quite often, or adds content on a continual basis, but for a mostly static site? Not really.
I was also curious as to the HTML being generated since I am rather sensitive to these issues, and that's when I found out how TopSites is doing their translation. Right at the top of the page, I found the following comment:
<!-- BabelFish added base tag -->
Nowhere on TopSites' site did I see mention a partnership with Altavista's Babelfish. Not one. And given the garbage HTML being generated:
I'm not sure I would even use them, Babelfish or not. They didn't even bother to translate the title (although I'm not sure if this is a limitation of the pseudo-software TopSites is using, or of Babelfish itself).
So much for strict HTML 4.01 compliance. They didn't even bother to set
the language code in the
<HTML> tag like I did.
Think I'll pass …