The Way We Work

The advent of cloud based computing, coupled with the rise of the online job marketplace has truly brought the world to your doorstep. A programmer from Asia can easily collaborate with an employer from Europe, separated only by a few clicks of the mouse. Just take a look at the international makeup of oDesk: a quick perusal of mobile app programmers shows workers based in 25+ countries — and that’s just one skill category.

The ability to network with colleagues around the world is exciting, but not without its challenges. Both cultural and language barriers can easily create misunderstanding and frustrations. While there’s not much in the way of iPhone apps to help you with the intricacies of cross-cultural communication (for some good reading on this topic, check out CindyKingsinternationalbusinessblog), there are plenty of translation tools to help smooth the way.

Here’s a rundown of six of them:

●  GoogleTranslate, BingTranslate & YahooBabelfish: All three of the major search engines have their own translation tools. Google’s can currently handle 57 major languages, plus provide an audio version of short texts. Bing offers translation for 35 languages as well as a similar audio feature. (Though I, personally, found Bing’s audio very hard to understand.) Handling only 13 languages, Yahoo’s Babelfish provides a straightforward interface but not many extra features. All three of the translators can either deal with chunks of text that you paste into a window, or can be used to translate a web page by entering its URL. The cost of all this translation work? Free.


●  Gmail:Another no-cost service from Google, Gmail provides automatic translation of e-mails as they arrive in your inbox. When you receive a message in one of Google’s 57 supported languages, Gmail puts a header at the top of the e-mail that says Translate Message. Click it, and the missive will be translated inline, nothing else needed.


translation tools two●  Systran: If you need translation on a regular basis but aren’t always online, consider buying a translation software program like Systran. It’s offered in several versions, but most folks would find their needs met with either the Personal version ($69; instantly translates Word documents, web pages, emails and tweets) or the Office version ($149; can translate Word, OpenOffice documents, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook emails, TXT and RTF files). While the software isn’t perfect, it has been routinely used by large companies and municipalities for their basic translation needs.


●  Twieee: Interested in reading tweets in other languages? Then check out Twieee (yes, three E’s). Twieee provides translation into 57 different languages, using Google’s translator. You start by choosing the language you want to read. Than, once you log in to their homepage with your Twitter credentials, all incoming tweets display in the original language with the option to translate it into your chosen language.


●  Jibbigo: For those who need speech translation, the Jibbigo app is a very handy tool. Available for the iPhone, iPad and Android, Jibbigo allows you to talk into the phone in one of nine supported languages and it will “speak” back in your chosen language. This app isn’t cheap ($24.99 per language pair), but it’s great at what it does. For a more in depth review, check out thisarticle by a journalist who used it while traveling in Japan.


●  Hire Someone: Machine-only translation isn’t perfect and can have severe trouble with certain language pairs. If you want to guarantee that your tweet, e-mail or document is correctly translated into the target language, then check out some of oDesk’s more than 15,000 translation contractors. Hiring your own personal translator can enable you to get closer to that dream of real-time (and accurate) communication in multiple languages!

This list is by no means exhaustive, but the information above should give you a start in finding some useful translation tools for your next project. The world is at your doorstep; time to start communicating! If you’ve tried these tools, let us know what you think of them in the comments below!

Julia Camenisch

Contributing Author

Julia Camenisch is a freelance technology and business journalist. She also works as an editor and copywriter for a wide range of clients, including national magazines, small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Julia brings to Upwork a passion for empowering small businesses through the innovative use of technology.