Ethan Shen has done a research project comparing the three major free translation engines available online; here are his results to date:
This paper evaluates the relative quality of three popular online translation tools: Google Translate, Bing (Microsoft) Translator, and Yahoo Babelfish. The results published below are based on a 6 week survey open to the general internet population which allowed survey takers to choose any language, enter any free-form text, and vote on the best of all translation results side-by-side (www.gabble-on.com/compare-translators). The final data reveals that while Google Translate is widely preferred when translating long passages, Microsoft Bing Translator and Yahoo Babelfish often produce better translations for phrases below 140 characters. Also, in general Babelfish performs well in East Asian Languages such as Chinese and Korean and Bing Translator performs well in Spanish, German, and Italian.
Below Figure 1, showing the comparisons in detail, come some interesting results like this:
The extent of Google’s lead varies dramatically from language to language. In some languages such as French, the strength of Google Translate’s engine is overwhelming. However, in several others like German, Italian, and Portuguese, Google holds only a very slim lead when compared to its biggest competitors….
One possible explanation is that large additional bodies of parallel English-French text are available from the government of Canada for which are official documents are translated into both.
Interesting stuff, and I’ll have to give Bing a try.