The first popular online language translator was based on the Babel Fish, a fictitious animal which performs instant translations, from the Douglas Adams novel “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.” There is a .com and a .org version out there, but the main translation program is now hosted by Yahoo! (babelfish.yahoo.com). You enter text in a box (up to 150 words), select a language to translate from and to, then click “translate.” You can also translate an entire web page by pasting in the URL of the site.
Google Translate has enabled translation across all their products. You can translate your search results, web pages, gmail messages, chat, text messages on your mobile phone, and entire documents on Google Docs. They have even launched a professional translator toolkit program. The Google Chrome browser has the translator built in and will prompt you when you access a foreign language site. Type “translate:” and then a word or phrase in the Google search box and it will return a translation at the top of the search results. Google Translate supports 52 languages.
The painting featured above is the Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563) and depicts the story that explains the origin of the world’s various languages. Technology seems to be at the beginning of the end of the language barrier. We are probably only a few mobile phone applications away from instant voice recognition and translation.