I get a lot of spam in languages I cannot read, and I’m curious what they’re about. Is there a safe way to translate them without registering interest to the sender?
You’re certainly not alone and it’s been many years since the Web was predominantly a single language. Even in the early years, it was easy to have a somewhat myopic perspective on the Internet and assume that your language was the top dog, English and users based in North America. No more. Which means that both regular people and spammers are utilizing the global reach of the Internet from just about every country in the world. From North Korea to Belarus, Cairo to Miami, anyone can send email and create online content in whatever language they like. Facebook supports over 40 languages, for example, and Google Translate knows about quite a few more. In fact, it’s Google Translate that we’ll tap for this particular query.
To start out, if you’re using the über-popular Gmail system for your email – as over a billion people are around the world – you should find that it’s auto detecting languages and offering up translations as appropriate. For example, when I got a message from a colleague written in Portuguese, Gmail added the following to the top of the message display:
If I spoke and read Portuguese natively, I could easily click on “Turn off for: Portuguese”. I don’t, however, so it’s darn handy to have this feature.
Let’s say you’re using a different tool and don’t have that neatly integrated translation feature, however. Instead, you get an email message like this:
You might not even recognize the language when you look at it – it’s Vietnamese! – which leads you to the question of what the heck does this say?
Fortunately, Google Translate still has you covered. Just open up a new window or tab and search for “google translate”. Right in the search results you’ll see a translate box:
Notice on the top of the left side I have chosen “Detect language”. It should do that by default but if it is already set to a specific language, switch to let it figure out what’s going on.
Then just copy and paste some text from that message into the translate box on the left!
Ah, so it’s an email advertising the online training offered by PTI Entrepreneurship School. Fair enough, I’m a reasonably good target for a message like this since I am an entrepreneur. Do I speak or read Vietnamese? No, so that’s not such a good match. Still, instead of just deleting it, I’ll send back a message thanking them for the solicitation message.
The easy trick for this is to click on the two alternating arrows at the very top, switching the English and Vietnamese boxes. Now you can type a message into the English box:
As you can see, a simple and professional response is quickly and – hopefully! – accurately translated into Vietnamese. Is it perfect Vietnamese, fluent and as a native language speaker would phrase it? Probably not. But it’s still better than nothing and in this global world of ours, the respect shown by trying to communicate in the recipient’s native language counts for a lot.
So that’s it. Google Translate for the win. Every time. I’m a big fan.
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