Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Resource discovery: translation tools

The ever-excellent Lifehacker has a post about online translation tools. I've got a soft spot for this kind of thing - I don't know why - and there are a few tools here I haven't come across before.

What's missing from most of this stuff is reliable, accurate translation of languages using non-Western character sets. In my neck of the woods, Urdu, Gujerati and Arabic would be handy, as would Polish. Admittedly, automated computerised translation will never (other than in a utopian sci-fi future) beat real human-powered translation. But for those of us who are monolingual - my A* for GCSE German is now reduced to "Ich habe Durchfall", which is hardly ever even true, let alone the basis for polite conversation - translation tools can often smooth the way.

It leads me in a roundabout way to some thoughts about library interfaces. The OPAC is pretty much an English-only affair. It's possible to provide alternative languages for the interface, as Google does (featuring my own favourite, Bork Bork Bork!). But decent, functional, on-the-fly translation could go one step further in the OPAC and provide the bib data, location etc. in other languages too. Provided that it worked well enough, obviously...