Microsoft's Bing search engine unveiled a language translation tool in June 2009, their answer to Alta Vista's popular Babelfish. The initial launch allowed users to type in a query, such as "How do I say I love you in Spanish," and the translation was provided. Over the next two years Bing continued to tweak the translator's functionality, until it became a separate tool that could be used to translate entire documents or URLs. Unfortunately, the translations have proven themselves to be flawed on a regular basis, which makes Bing's language translation tool nothing more than a neat, but not very useful, tool.
Despite the many flaws that the translation tool has, such as an inability to deal with slang and proper grammatical formatting, Facebook has decided to incorporate the tool, allowing users to translate comments that are left in different languages. The initial tests of this functionality by those not involved with Facebook or Bing has been grim. LexioPhiles, a popular website devoted to the proper usage of words in all languages, performed a test on the new Facebook feature and found that it failed to provide a proper translation approximately 50% of the time, unlike the work by trained translators with master's degrees. Considering that Facebook is backed by the same translation tool that Bing has available on their website, it would be prudent for those needing a good translation to skip Bing.
With all of Bing's flaws, however, corporations and individuals who need to have simple words and phrases translated will generally receive good results from the translation tool. Although it is marketed as having the ability to handle complex translations, its true functionality is best served by sticking with the basics. The Bing translation tool can be very useful for limited encounters, but an overreliance on it could provide disastrous results and is not recommended. At best, the faulty translations will be humorous to others, but at worst they could botch an important business deal or create a PR nightmare.
The failure of Bing's translation tool proves yet again that technology is not yet at a place where a computer translation program can take the place of individuals who offer translation services. Language translation is truly an art form, especially with all of the different dialects, slang and colloquialisms that impact every language on Earth. It is imperative for a good translation to not only take word variations into account, but to also preserve the original intent of what is being translated while honoring the grammatical rules of the language that the text is being translated into.
This is where the vast majority of translation programs fail and it's not surprising that this happens; after all, if you give two expert translators the same document they will invariably give you back similar but not identical results. If experts, who have the ability to call on their vast knowledge of various grammatical rules and all of the various colloquialisms of different regions, are unable to agree on an exact translation then it would be foolish to expect a computer program to be able to consider all of the necessary variables and provide a stellar result.