You are all alone at the desk. You have snuggled up with a book and there is a word in another language. You can't guess at the meaning and you don't feel like browsing through the stacks.
There is help for the linguistically needy. There are free translation websites that will help you translate a word, a paragraph or an entire website.
There are a few cautions before you embrace you new translation tools. These are machines based translations, not human. They will do a good job but language is far more that matching word for word translations. There are concepts and meanings that may not exactly fit from one language to another.
I have used these on-line applications to converse with a friend in France. His English is a lot better than my French, which does not exist. Sometimes I need to explain a concept and I want to sent a letter to him in both English and French to make sure he understands.
He sends me newsletters in French that I have to translate into English. I get the general concept and meaning but there are conceptual errors that can be funny or insulting.
I've used this on the job when I couldn't find an staff interpreter. I always inform the recipient that I am using a translation program. So, let's start our run to the tower with Babel Fish.
Altavista Babelfish now known as Yahoo Babel Fish is an oldie but a goodie. Bablefish will translate a passage or an entire website. Babel Fish can translate certain forms of Chinese as well as the Roman languages.
Reverso will not only translate a passage but if you are skilled in the 2nd language you can add the proper punctuation marks if necessary. There is also a dictionary and if you are a student of languages and need to know how to conjugate a verb this could be of great help.
Google Translate - yes they do have a translation application. You can type in a search term in English and then select the language to find the equivalent term in another language with search results. It will also allow you to enter more than 150 characters of text and it will translate web pages for you. What will blow you away is the number of languages it can translate.
I hope these language tools will be a help to you inside and outside of the library. Just remember they are not a replacement for human interpreters or translators. But they might help out in a pinch if you have a patron that needs written assistance in another language.