Being a native English speaker in The Netherlands isn’t usually a problem. Everyone here speaks English. In fact, they can probably speak better English than many Americans. Where it gets difficult though is with the radio and the printed word. The radio is tough for those traffic reports where they tell you well in advance that if you continue going down the A2 you will be in a world of hurt due to the delays. Unfortunately, I usually don’t understand that until I suffer through the 2 hour delay. Printed labels in grocery stores are easy enough because there are plenty of workers and other shoppers to help you along. When looking on Dutch websites for information, life gets a bit more difficult.
There are plenty of great translators out there to help make the expat’s life a bit easier with this though. For ages, I stuck with Babelfish (babelfish.altavista.com). From the BF site, you can paste in a bit of text, or enter a URL. Then just specify the translation direction (Dutch to English) and click the button. I have relied on this for my translations of the Funda.nl web site while looking for apartments. But the problem is that the translation often doesn’t make any sense. But in my two years, I have seen enough Dutch that I understand some words without needing the translation. Combine those with the context, and I am good. But BF does a complete translation and only shows you the site in English. I didn’t realize that was a problem until I saw the solution.
This morning I read Greg Hughes’ blog entry on the new Windows Live Translator beta. OOOOOOOhhhhhhhhh, yes. This is WAY COOL! At first it looks like a slightly reformatted Babelfish. Paste some text in and you get a translation. But things get really exciting when you paste in a URL to the bottom box. What? You don’t have a good URL to test with? Go to this site and copy the URL. That’s the search I was doing to find a place. When it first comes up, you get a similar result as BF. But then try choosing a different view. I think the default was a side by side view with the original on the left and English on the right. I found that a bit annoying. Same as the top and bottom view. But where things got really exciting was the 3rd view along. The one thats all in Dutch, but then hover over a sentence to get it in English. Now I can see the original, and get a rough translation too. Its the same Systran software being used so I get the same crappy translation, but it seems to be delivered in a much more effective manner. I think this will be my new favorite translation engine.