In the early, post-World War II days of computing, scientists dreamed of creating software so intelligent it could accurately translate one language into another. If computers could crack enemy codes, the thinking went, then why not foreign languages? Five decades later, researchers are still working on the problem. But what was a dream in the 1950s has become an overwhelming demand as business increasingly ignores traditional borders. In fact, by 2007, the already huge translation market—mostly manual today—is expected to reach $13 billion, as advertising, Web pages, and even internal company documents have to be tailored to different countries. “There’s so much more text than anybody could hope to translate by hand,” says Stephen Richardson, a senior researcher at Microsoft Research, “and it’s growing exponentially.”

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