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Instant translation is the translation from one language to another of Web pages, e-mail, and online chat text by a computer program so that the translated results appear almost instantly. Instant translation services are gaining in popularity because they help people who work for global businesses communicate and enable e-commerce sites to appeal to customers in other countries. Because much of the material on the Web is written in English and the majority of the world speaks other languages, most instant translation is from English to another language. IDC estimates that the machine translation industry will grow to $378 million by 2003.
Most instant translation tools store frequently-encountered words, sentences, and phrases in a database that is accessed when a new document is translated. Until recently, vendors like Lernout & Hauspie, Systran, and Transparent Language dominated the instant translation space. However, IBM is entering the arena with the WebSphere Translation Server, targeting Internet service providers and other companies that run their own servers. The IBM product creates and distributes Web content globally without the need for special Web pages or separate infrastructure. WebSphere Translation Server translates material from English to French, Spanish, German, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean but does not convert material into English.
Some companies are especially cautious when using instant translation software, having discovered that even small translation errors can result in big business problems.
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