Babylon is a powerful language dictionary and translation application that can assist linguists at any level.
As a professional translation worker, I have a tendency to take a very advanced view of language and language learning and assume it’s very common – or that it should be. I always assume that everyone can learn languages – that everyone has the time and mindframe to simply start learning and wind up a few weeks or months later chatting away in their new adoptive tongue. This stems from my own experience; I’ve always found languages easy and fascinating, so I’ve learned them, at least to a casual degree, very easily and quickly.
But, as logic teaches us, our experiences are not universal. Just as I will always disappoint my car mechanic who no doubt assumes anyone could learn how to take their engine apart and rebuild it should they only apply themselves, many people not only have no desire to learn a language, they have little skill in the area. That doesn’t mean that people with no “head for languages” are doomed to only experience in the world in their own native tongue, however, for we live in the Future and have plenty of technology to assist us.
Babylon (www.babylon.com) is a computer application that is often described as “language translation” software – but it’s really more of a dictionary-cum-contextual identifier application. Even so, it’s an amazing tool and very powerful – and very useful for people who either haven’t mastered a foreign language or who are in the midst of learning. Even someone like me, who knows his languages very well, can get a lot of use out of Babylon, because no one can know every word.
Once installed, it’s simple: While browsing the web, any word you don’t understand in another language, just right-click and the Babylon window pops up with the definition, contextual use, and pronunciation guide. It’s really quite amazing and useful, and you can see the application when you’re learning a language – instead of having to stop and look up the word, you quickly see its meaning, work out the grammar implications, and continue reading. Plus, Babylon already services more than 77 languages, so no more buying multiple dictionaries just to read the world news!
Babylon has been accused of being overly aggressive with their software installation, including via deceptive practices a toolbar that is often considered a “browser hijacker” in that it resets many preferences in your web browser to Babylon’s favour and makes it very difficult to uninstall or change the settings back. Google dissolved a partnership with Babylon over similar issues last year, in fact. While I find it very easy to avoid the toolbar when installing the software, do keep it in mind, and don’t ever install anything on your computer you’re not 100% comfortable with.
All that said, Babylon remains useful and powerful for any language lover at any level, and I highly recommend it.
Image courtesy useroot.com