Simple by name, simple by nature. If all you want is the gist of a piece written in a foreign language, then this package is perfect. Just don't expect a polished translation.
Lernout & Hauspie is a specialist manufacturer of translation and voice recognition software, and Simply Translating is its bottom-of-the-range package aimed at "casual users, students, tourists and small business users", according to its website. But translation is a tricky business, and if you really want to get a point across, you might find this product too basic.
The interface is the first disappointment. It looks as if it was designed five years ago and offers none of the context menus familiar in software written for Windows 95/98. It also has problems dealing with text cut from other applications, because it doesn't recognise word-wrapped lines.
However, it does integrate into Microsoft Word 95/97 and Corel Wordperfect 7/8, so if you use these versions you can dispense with the outdated design. Integration with Word 97 consists of adding a new menu item called Translate, which allows you to convert a whole document, sentence or selection into your chosen language, and offers you the option of opening the translation in a new window.
However, the outdated L&H interface offers an advantage that the integrated version lacks - an interactive mode. This lets you choose from a list of words that are broken down into nouns, verbs and so on, so you can correct obvious mistakes.
Still, the interactive mode is not infallible. It has a hard time with idiomatic phrases, and doesn't allow words to be grouped together for translation. Although it does recognise some phrases, such as 'So much', it doesn't recognise others, like 'So far'. However, the software can be quite sophisticated in other areas, such as the options that change depending on which language you're using. The French options, for example, allow you to specify your gender, and the register (formal or familiar) of the translation.
These nice touches are let down by the translation engine, which is simply too elementary. If you're in the business of communicating something, it's no use if your meaning is mangled. Unless the person you're communicating with has a lot of patience and can think laterally, your message will be wasted. Essentially, there's no such thing as 'simple translation': you either translate correctly or you lose your meaning.
Contact Lernout & Hauspie 0800 056 0539
Although adequate for rudimentary translation, you'd better hope the person reading it has a sense of humour.
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