Are blog posts lost in translation?

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As a native English speaker I’m really very fortunate. In the western world, English is the dominant language used for publishing even though globally only about 720 million out of about 6.8 billion people speak English, about 11% of the world population according to WolframAlpha. Every blog I’ve subscribed to publishes in English even though in many cases the bloggers are not native speakers but do a great job nonetheless.

But what about those many millions globally for whom English is not their native language, indeed many of whom can’t speak English at all. Are we reaching them with our blogs or could we do more? Yes I know there are online translation sites such as Jollo which can be used to translate text but should we all be providing an automated translation service on our blogs to help? After all, the net is global and so is our readership.

There are WordPress plugins like the Global Translator WordPress Plugin, widgets like the new Google Translation Widget, Microsoft Translator and others but are they really effective? Surely automated translation will never be as good as a human translation so are they worth it? I’ve always shied away from using one because I just can’t judge how good they are – I only speak English and minor conversational French.

Amit Agarwal of Digital Inspiration goes into some of the difficulties behind language translation plugins in terms of storing translation results in the blog database and more recently looks at Google Translate.

So I’d really like to know from my readers just what you think of automated translation plugins on blogs. Have you used them to translate blogs into your native language? Do you find any useful and if so which? Is the tech field with its specialized vocabulary just too much for these plugins? Do you prefer to do your own translation into your language? Please add your thoughts below and from the responses I’ll judge whether it’s worth adding this service on this site.

6 Responses

  1. Mike Unwalla Says:

    Quote: but are they really effective? Surely automated translation will never be as good as a human translation so are they worth it?

    Automated translation is not as good as human translation. However, if source text is optimised for machine translation, machine translation gives satisfactory results.

    In an evaluation, English text was translated into Spanish using Google Translate. Professional translators evaluated the machine translations. The machine translations have a satisfactory quality ( http://www.international-english.co.uk/mt-evaluation-en-es.html ).

  2. Klaus @ TechPatio Says:

    I use the Global Translater plugin just with a few other languages that I think would be nice to cover. They might give you some more hits from the search engines that you would not otherwise have received.

    But of course the translations are not perfect – in most cases though, I think Google does a pretty good job so you at least will know what the important message of your post is.

    The Google Translation Widget is cool though, but it will not let your content be indexed in search engines – it only translates “on the fly” as the user request it.

    I also found that the Google widget could mess up certain javascript code, which is not so good.

    PS: I don’t think your CommentLuv is working anymore. I can’t get it to pull any posts.

  3. techandlife Says:

    Mike, thanks for that. I guess the onus is on us to write clearly and proofread carefully to try and avoid the double meanings, idioms, etc you mention on your website. Incidentally, I note you use Google Translate in your sidebar so presume you feel it works okay as long as its translating international English.

  4. techandlife Says:

    Klaus, thanks for your comments. I think translation on the fly is what I want given the post by Amit on storing translations in the blog database.
    I suspected Commentluv wasn’t working – I don’t think it ever has despite my best efforts. I’ll contact them about it.

  5. Mike Unwalla Says:

    @techandlife: I note you use Google Translate in your sidebar so presume you feel it works okay as long as its translating international English.

    Yes. Usually, international English gives satisfactory results with machine translation. On the TechScribe websites, most text is in international English. I use the term ‘international English’ for text that is optimized for MT. Other people use the terms ‘global English’, ‘Globish’, and ‘worldwide English’.

    @techandlife: I guess the onus is on us to write clearly and proofread carefully to try and avoid the double meanings, idioms, etc you mention on your blog.

    Yes. The best guidelines that I know about are in ‘The Global English style guide: writing clear, translatable documentation for a global market’ by John R Kohl, 2008 (ISBN 978-1-59994-657-3). For a review of the book, see http://www.techscribe.co.uk/ta/global-english-style-guide.htm. (Although the book’s title contains the word ‘documentation’, the guidelines apply to most business texts.)

  6. Hla Says:

    Thanks

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