IBM Corp. has unveiled an eMail translation service as part of its TraduceloAhora! (Translate It Now) online program, so that English-speaking teachers can communicate with their students’ Spanish-speaking parents.

TraduceloAhora! now uses an enhanced version of IBM’s WebSphere software to translate eMail messages from English to Spanish and from Spanish to English, and it also automatically translates web site content from English to Spanish.

Teachers who are registered with the translation service copy their eMail messages to The recipient will receive the already-translated version in their inbox. The original eMail message will be attached. The recipient can reply to all addresses in the eMail, copying the translation address, and the teacher will receive a translated eMail message in return. Any teacher can register, as long as he or she is affiliated with one of the organizations participating in the TraduceloAhora! grant program.

Each eMail message takes roughly three to five minutes to translate. If the message contains graphics, those will remain unchanged. Text embedded in an image will translate to a pop-up translation.

The TraduceloAhora! web site advises writing in simple, short sentence constructions, as well as carefully checking spelling and, if writing in Spanish, checking that accent marks are used correctly. Users should avoid jargon, slang, and abbreviations. The TradúceloAhora! eMail translation system supports translation of incoming eMail messages containing up to approximately 3,000 words–about eight pages of text. Longer messages are truncated before translation.

IBM is giving away access to the Spanish-translation WebSphere software to more than 50 schools and nonprofit organizations in 14 states and in Washington, D.C., said Doris Gonzalez, program manager for IBM’s TraduceloAhora!.

TraduceloAhora! began in 2003, with a grant from IBM, as a basic online translation tool. Aimed at addressing the digital divide affecting Hispanic communities across the U.S., the initiative has allowed thousands of individuals to find online information about jobs, health care, immigration, legal aid, and education.

In December, the program began focusing on the eMail translation service for K-12 students, their parents, teachers, and administrators.