Web site speaks many languages

Transparent Language has launched a free online translation service on the Web that uses the company's natural-language translation engine, Transcend RT.

The FreeTranslation.com site allows users to translate text written in English to Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese, and to translate text written in Spanish, French or German to English.

According to Transparent Language officials, the new service is designed to help companies expand their efforts to share information on a global basis by allowing users to derive the gist of documents written in another language.

The service, however, is not intended to serve as a productivity tool that makes perfect publishable translations.

"The explosion of interest in machine translation is not about productivity," says president Michael Quinlan. "It's about trying to do the types of translations that have never been done before."

One industry analyst finds machine translation particularly useful.

"My newsletter is read in France and I received a letter from a French company that asked me, in French, to send invoices to a different address. I put it through the translator and, while it wasn't perfect, I got the idea," says William Mesel, founder of TMA Associates, a speech technology research company.

The current Web site allows users to gather the meaning of any document and is envisioned as a precursor to an Internet-based translation service staffed by language experts from Transparent Language, company officials say.

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