I know of an office that is looking into providing real-time machine translation (MT) of its main website. Setting aside the question of whether this is a GoodThing(r), I was curious as to the general state of MT.
The two free services I know of are Google Translate and Yahoo! Babel Fish (there are probably others so if you know of one that does better than these, please leave a comment). I took a paragraph from an article on the French language on Wikipedia and copied it into each service. Below is the orginal paragraph, followed by the Babel Fish translation and then the Google (Depending on the character set used, the original paragraph may have strange characters displayed. I apologize if that occurs).
I don’t speak French so I don’t know how close the translation is to the original, but it does appear things are moving along and perhaps MT is at a point where is useful, if not perfect.
Original Wikipedia Paragraph
Le français est une langue romane parlée principalement en France, dont elle est originaire (la « langue d’oïl »), ainsi qu’au Canada (principalement au Québec, dans le nord du Nouveau-Brunswick et dans l’est et le nord-est de l’Ontario, et aussi au Manitoba, en Saskatchewan, en Alberta, et en Colombie-Britannique), en Belgique (en Région wallonne et en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale) et en Suisse (en Romandie). Le français est parlé comme deuxième ou troisième langue dans d’autres régions du monde, au total dans 51 pays du monde ayant pour la plupart fait partie des anciens empires coloniaux français et belge.
Yahoo! Babel Fish Translation
French is a Romance language spoken mainly in France, in which it is originating (the “language d’ oil”), thus qu’ in Canada (mainly in Quebec, in the north of New Brunswick and l’ is and the North-East of l’ Ontario, and also in Manitoba, in Saskatchewan, in Alberta, and a Colombia-British), Belgium (in Walloon region and Area of Brussels-Capital) and in Switzerland (in Romandie). French is spoken like second or third language in d’ other areas of the world, on the whole in 51 countries of the world for the majority having belonged to the old French and Belgian colonial empires.
The french is a Romance language spoken mainly in France, where it originates (the “langue d’oïl”) and Canada (mainly in Quebec, northern NB and in the east and north – eastern Ontario and Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC), Belgium (Walloon Region and Brussels-Capital Region) and Switzerland (Romandie). The french is spoken as a second or third language in other regions of the world total in 51 countries around the world have for the most part former colonial empires french and Belgium.