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Online translation & CD Rom Translation recommendations please


ctc

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Hi

Would you please advise your recommendations for free on-line translation websites and also translation CD Roms we could purchase to download to our computer.  We need to be able to write letters in French and also to translate from French to English.

Thanks

 

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For English to French I would not recommend any of them.   I have tried Systran Professional and also some free online stuff and I have always found their translations are error-ridden except for the shortest and simplest of phrases that you could do yourself from a decent dictionary. 

If it's an important letter I do the best I can myself and then get a French friend to check it.  I suppose you could do the same with a free online translator as long as you didn't mind the resulting laughter.

[:)]

French to English I guess doesn't matter so much as it's for your own consumption.

Phil

PS And I know my French website version is not perfect.  Feel free to laugh!

PPS I do recommend the Larousse Chambers full size dictionary - the one for a sturdy bookshelf rather than a pocket.

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It depends on how much time you have.  For what I do, Systran is okay (even the free version), but you need several passes.  Here's my system, English to French.  An A4 letter will take you one whole interesting morning!  I should add I can read French reasonably well and I'm not sure whether it would work if I couldn't do that. 

Sketch it out in short "French-like" sentences (yes, I know French sentences are typically not short, but Systran will invariably get the syntax wrong if the sentence is complex).  Shove it through Systran, English-French.  Copy the result to WORD with language set to French, and spelling and grammar switched on.  That will greatly improve spelling and get agreement etc much better.  BTW, WORD seems to have a hang-up about the passive, and is usually wrong, particularly in French.  Now, put the result through Systran as French-English.  This should identify areas where the French simply doesn't work.  Then, either change the French directly or simplify the English and go round again.  Note, you end up with written French that is okay and will certainly be understood, but will be read as "translated English" to a native speaker.  It depends on what you want to achieve.  Unless you know a lot of French you will never write it convincingly, but if you simply want to get a message over to someone it's good enough. And in some cases earnest effort has its own reward, even if the result seems a bit quaint.  Shameless use of existing model letters (lots available on the web) is a help.  Obviously, don't try it in letters to the Notaire with your life's savings hanging on it.  AK

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One of the problems is that all of these systems are so literal.  Unless you know a bit of the language it's hard to know if what you have produced is nonsense or not.

For example, here is Altavista's Babelfish translation of:

 'We are hoping to open a bed and breakfast business.'

'Nous espérons ouvrir des affaires de lit et de petit déjeuner.'

I'm not sure a Frenchman or woman would know what that was supposed to mean.

Phil

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I don't have it with me, but I wonder what Systran would do with 'Nous espérons ouvrir des affaires de lit et de petit déjeuner.' ?  The test of my system is would it be bad enough English to make you stop and think.  My guess is it would come up with something a bit strange.

But as I said, the system only works if you can read pretty well, but are uncertain about writing (and that's the usual case).    But you're quite right - some translation software makes you wince. AK

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Surely as it made a bog of 'bed & breakfast' you would go back in again using 'chambre d'hote' and see how that comes out. You have to be aware of what you are asking it to translate and whether or not the French phrase would be a literal translation.
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Is there some reason for your thinking that you can obtain these services and skills without training or payment? Do you supply your own services for free?

Don't you think that if you need "to write letters in French and also to translate from French to English", that you should either learn French or employ a professional translator?

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The most accurate online translator I've found is at  www.reverso.com but, because the online version is free, the constraint is the amount of text which can be dealt with at each hit. And I seem to remember the site limits users to 3 or 4 hits before forcing you to exit and go in again. Which, of course, encourages you to buy the full package - Softissimo - for installation on your pc/s. I bought it about a year ago and I'm impressed with it. As someone said earlier, it is necessary to keep the English sentence simple and ideally, if you're going English to French, construct the English sentence in a French format. [:)] But in general, it is very helpful particularly when paired with improving language skills.

But, as I think CJLaws (unnecessarily snittily imo) suggests, if you have anything complex to convert from English to French, you should find yourself a professional translator - ideally native French speaker. Particularly if you are putting in writing something which you may want to enforce or prove at a later date - with artisans, for example. In that situation, clarity and a lack of ambiguity would be important.

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[quote user="catalpa"]

But, as I think CJLaws (unnecessarily snittily imo) suggests, if you have anything complex to convert from English to French, you should find yourself a professional translator - ideally native French speaker.

[/quote]

You could always employ CJLaws - occupation teacher/translator - but obviously it won't be free, you pay for what you get.

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I tried my system with reverso (nice free software, thank-you for the link) on the bed and breakfast sentence. A couple of passes and you arrive at:

Nous espérons ouvrir l'affaire de chambre avec petit déjeuner

Hmmm.  But that "avec" is clever.  These things are getting better.

Re the advice to "learn French",  it's not all-or-none, and even when you have "learned French" (whatever that means) it's seriously unlikely that you'll be able to write like a native.  Very few professional translators manage that working outside their mother tongue.  Using translation software for non-critical things - and taking your time about it - is a good way of improving writing skills.  And it's quite entertaining. AK 

 

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I've mentioned the folks on this forum before - & have always found them more than helpful.  I've seen full University Thesis being posted to members for checking & I'm sure someone on here would be more than happy to help.  I've tried to help out the odd French person with English phrases - but worry they are now talking, with a few Northern Ireland expressions & confusing everyone!! 

 

http://forum.wordreference.com/forumdisplay.php?f=3

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[quote user="Cassis"][quote user="catalpa"]

But, as I think CJLaws (unnecessarily snittily imo) suggests, if you have anything complex to convert from English to French, you should find yourself a professional translator - ideally native French speaker.

[/quote]

You could always employ CJLaws - occupation teacher/translator - but obviously it won't be free, you pay for what you get.

[/quote]

[:)] Well no, actually, since I teach English and translate French-English. English is my mother tongue, and I believe that all translation must be done into the mother tongue.

Sorry if I seem snitty (whatever that is), but, yes you pay for what you get. [;-)]

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Snitty means grouchy or moody.  I do find that emails and posts on forums can come across in a way that may not have been the original intention of the sender - yours did come across a bit grouchy (though I wasn't the one to say it).

[6]

Phil

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[quote user="Cassis"]One of the problems is that all of these systems are so literal.  Unless you know a bit of the language it's hard to know if what you have produced is nonsense or not.

For example, here is Altavista's Babelfish translation of:

 'We are hoping to open a bed and breakfast business.'

'Nous espérons ouvrir des affaires de lit et de petit déjeuner.'

I'm not sure a Frenchman or woman would know what that was supposed to mean.

Phil

[/quote]

Some say

that a good (and amusing) test for a free online translator is to run the

translation back through it again, back into the source language.

Here's what http://babelfish.altavista.com did with the above:

"We hope to open businesses of bed and breakfast" Which seems quite

good. However the French translation is not as good as the retranslation into

English.

This is because in English we are familiar the collocation "bed and

breakfast" whereas "lit et petit déjeuner" in French makes about

as much sense as "pillow and breakfast" or "pyjamas and

breakfast" or any other word you want to use to invoke the idea of

sleeping in a room. On top of this "des affaires de lit" could be

read in French to mean "bed affairs" which might get you a completely

different clientele to the expected one.

You might get clients ringing to book “a bed affair with breakfast!!”

- “For how

many?”             ...........Peter

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I'm not sure whether we would have to charge extra or give a discount for that arrangement!

Another interesting test along those lines is to run it through another language before coming back to English.

We are hoping to open a bed and breakfast business.

1. Nous espérons ouvrir des affaires de lit et de petit déjeuner.

2. Ελπίζουμε να ανοίξουμε επιχειρήσεις του κρεβατιού και του μικρού

γεύματος.

3. We hope to open enterprises of bed and small dinner.

Marvellous.  I've just noticed that Babelfish is powered by Systran, by the way.  I used Systran myself until my French became good enough to realise what a bullix it made of things.  The software CD now dangles from a fishing line in the garden - it makes a better bird scarer than a translator.

phil

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I don't know about having to translate only into the mother tongue; my French partner speaks and writes english better than me... Hmmmmm.

Actually she has just informed me that she feels more comfortable translating english into french - so there you go! [:)]

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