Vernacular Spectacular
7/1/2007
We tested three online translation services to see how well they speak genealogists' language.

Bilingual I'm not - a truth I learned when I abandoned my high school French studies after the second year. But now that I'm researching my genealogy, I've discovered as you probably have in your search that foreign-language skills can be a big boon. Though some old-country records are formulaic enough to figure out with a few quick dictionary lookups, others may be impossible to unpuzzle if you don't know the language they're written in.

Thanks to the Internet, you can get instant help translating short text strings and entire Web sites using aids such as Babel Fish <babelfish.altavista.com> and Google Language Tools <google.com/language-tools>. If you've tried the translate-a-Web-page feature on any of these sites, though, you know the English “translations” typically require additional deciphering from a human being-help some sites will provide for a fee.