The Internet is an American invention, and though it has spread around the world, the bulk of the communication conducted through it is still in English. Even so, depending on what you're doing, you can come across Web pages, blogs and other Internet content in many other languages. To deal with this multilingualism, various free advertising-supported translation services have popped up. The two most popular are Google Translate and Yahoo's Babel Fish.

You can copy and paste selected text to be translated or translate an entire Web page by typing in its location. At the time of this writing Google Translate could translate text from 40 different languages into English, Babel Fish 12.

One problem, however, with any kind of automated or "machine" translation is that it's unable to accurately deal with complicated syntax, grammar, figures of speech and jargon that native speakers take for granted. Just think of the differences between the literal and figurative meaning of the phrase, "I'm going to give you a piece of my mind."

Using machine translation typically gives you a general idea of the meaning of the words, though sometimes you're left with gibberish.

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Reid Goldsborough  |  Contributing Writer
Reid Goldsborough is a syndicated columnist and author of Straight Talk About the Information Superhighway. He can be reached at or