Reviewed: BabelFish Online Translator

Reviewed: BabelFish Online Translator
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Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in Feb 2009. Since that time, Babel Fish has now been updated to the new Bing Translator. The article has been archived. There is, however, another website called BabelFish. The review below refers to that site.

Taking its name from a translating fish in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, BabelFish has been helping language learners

communicate for years.

Available Languages

Babel Fish offers translations for the following languages:

  • Spanish
  • French
  • German
  • Italian
  • Russian
  • Portuguese
  • Greek
  • Dutch
  • Hindi
  • Ukranian
  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Danish

As well, they translate

  • Simplified Chinese
  • Traditional Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Korean

All of the available languages are paired with English, with both English-to-target language and target language-to-English translations.In addition, BabelFish pairs French with Dutch, Portuguese, Greek, Italian, Spanish and German.You must have special characters enabled on your computer to view Chinese, Korean and Japanese translations.


BabelFish will translate up to 33 words or 167 characaters at a time.Type or copy and paste your text into the box labeled “Translate a block of text” and click on the Translate button.Your translation will appear within seconds.

Babel Fish recommends using proper spelling and grammar for the best results.


Although Babel Fish is a useful tool, it shares the limitations of most online translators in that it cannot recognize context.For instance, if you want write about flying in Spanish, you could input the word “fly” into the Babel Fish interface and select “English to Spanish”.The Spanish word that appears is mosca.This is definitely a correct translation of “fly”…if you’re talking about an insect buzzing around your computer.Trying to improve your results, you next try “to fly” so that the program will recognize it as a verb.The translation you receive is para volar, which roughly means “in order to fly”, a grammatical construction that may or may not be correct, depending on how you word your sentence.

Bottom Line

If you encounter a few unfamiliar words, it may be easier to type them in to BabelFish than to get out a dictionary. If you find a website in a language you don’t read, and you just want to get a general idea of the content, the web page translation tool is essential.However, if you are completing a school assignment or writing a piece that will be shared with a wider audience, you are more likely to create awkward, if not outright incorrect, translations than you are to truly communicate.In the end, nothing can replace solid instruction and true knowledge of the language.

This article has been placed in our archives.