January 30th, 2008
I've been having a bit of fun with Google Translate over lunch the last couple of days. The idea of a machine translating from one language to another is always an iffy proposition. However, machine translation can be extremely useful to get the gist of a document in a foreign language. I used some early translation tools back in my college days when I took freelance jobs translating Russian to English. Now you can translate for free using Google Translate. You can either paste text into a form or translate an entire web page while browsing. It’s not perfect, but it’s a start.
Google also has a section on their translate site for a “dictionary”, which is just becoming available in the English / Russian combination. I like the tool but the output is difficult to sift through. Also, it would be nice to speed up the process so that you didn’t have to constantly click into the form, click the button, and have the browser refresh. To make it more user friendly, I created a tool in Excel to query the Google site for any word and return the translation and example phrases. It uses web queries to quickly pull the data back to Excel. I can type the word and get a response almost instantaneously.
Click "Save" (opening in Internet Explorer will not work). Note that you have to enable macros (make sure your Macro security settings are set to “Medium” in the Tools > Security menu of Excel).