These and other blogs are hiring translators to translate their blog into different languages. Blog Herald began with Japanese, based upon a study released by Technorati stating that Japanese is the most used language on the blogosphere. Weblog Tools Collection offers Español and Deutsch versions of their blog, expanding into Europe.
Those of us with little or no money to spend on human translation services resort to translation WordPress Plugins or turn to Google’s Translate Language Tools or Altavista’s Babelfish. Machine translations aren’t perfect, but they typically do a fair job getting much of the concept across.
Having lived overseas among non-English speaking folks much of my life, the early days of the web was filled with anticipation that free instant translation would be available through our browsers. Click any link on a web page, and your browser would detect the language, magically translating it into your desired tongue. Websites in Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Hungarian, Hebrew, German, French, Arabic, Norwegian, Swahili, and everywhere would be immediately accessible for my reading pleasure.
I dreamed of learning about all these diverse cultures, getting an inside look at how they live and what their thoughts are on their lives, government, work, friends, and family. I wanted to ask them questions and seek their opinions, translated through the magic of web browsers. I wanted to learn from and about them, and I hoped they might want to know a little about me, too.
It never happened.
I don’t know why web browsers didn’t follow through on the promise of instant international language communication. The whole idea of HTML was to create a code format that any browser on any machine anywhere in the world could read, developing a standard format for web page design and development. By removing the pretty designs from the structure of the page with CSS, browser technology took another leap by allowing the user to customize how they wanted to see and read web pages, which also increased accessibility standards. The web opened up to the blind and visually impaired as well as disabled. But it never opened up to different languages.
Imagine what our world would look like if Microsoft developed language translation within Internet Explorer? Or if Firefox ran with it now? What would our blogging world look like if web technology had put their energy into crossing language borders as much as operating system borders?
As much as everyone wants to brag about Web 2.0 moving into the social networking and interaction generation, most of us are still living behind a great iron curtain, unable to easily cross the language border with our blogs.
Even with today’s amazing technologies, the process of reading a web page in another language is tedious and frustrating. Yes, I can fairly quickly get a machine translation through WordPress Plugins, Google and Altavista. However, it’s one sided.
Crossing the Border of International Blog Conversations
Blogs are about interaction, a dialog between the blogger and the reader and other readers. When reading a translated blog, how do I reply to what I’ve just translated in the blog’s original language?
Through another machine translation?
I have two choices in responding to a blog not in my language. I can post a comment in my language, putting the burden on the blogger to translate what I’ve written. Or I can use a machine translation of my response converted into their language.
The best method of replying would be to write it in your language and leave the burden of translation to the blogger. If they read English, then they can read it and provide a translation to their readers. This is best as it limits the risk of a convoluted translation. If they can’t, hopefully they will use a friend or a machine translation to convert it into their language. Either way, how would you know if they got it right?
If I put the burden of translation upon myself, I can use Google’s Translate or and Babelfish to type in my response in my language and have it translated into over a dozen different languages. It’s a machine translation so while not perfect, it may get the point across.
To use this, I have to go back and forth from the translated page to the translating page to copy and paste the translation of my comment into the post. This is a lot of work. It also comes with some trust issues.
I don’t know if the post I just read translated by machine or otherwise is really an accurate translation. I have to assume that it’s close. The translation of my reply is also based upon an assumption, since I don’t know if I used the appropriate words which will easily translate to get my point across, so how do I know if the machine got that right? I’ve tried translating translations – messy business. Translating translations loses even more in the translation. Without another recourse, I have to trust that the machine got it “close”.
Here’s an example of the confusion translations and translations of translations can cause. In a recent announcement on the Blog Herald, one of the articles I wrote called “It’s Catching: Blog Disease” was determined to be the most popularly read article in the Blog Herald’s Japanese section.
While there is much English to giggle over in Google’s translation of the Japanese version, let’s look at the bio at the end of the article and compare them.
The first is the Google Translation of the Japanese human translation of the English version:
Laurel [huanhuotsusen] Lorelle ON WordPress (laurel on [wadopuresu]) with has written [burogu] and [burogu] regarding word press. In addition long time word press is supported self-sacrifice. The laurel has appeared in traveling frequently, “you will go out with the camera”, with it has reported concerning itself trailer life. Furthermore with “history of my family” you contribute the history of your own family and the article regarding the lineage figure. You have contributed to also many [burogu] and the member sight and the magazine and the like to in addition to.
Why my name is spelled “Laurel” is odd, but a closer look reveals that Google translated it phonetically, not literally, from the Japanese. It’s spelled right in the “Lorelle ON WordPress” because that is a link and the Japanese translators left it in English. It didn’t require translation by Google’s machine.
Google translated WordPress into “word press”, which also might be a phonetic translation rather than accurate one. While I’m sure for Matt Mullenweg, WordPress is a self-sacrifice, but is it for me? I love “you will go out with camera” for “Taking Your Camera on the Road”. I’d like to read a magazine called “Traveling Frequently”, wouldn’t you? I’d love to be “The Laurel published in Traveling Frequently”. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it. Inaccurate, but wonderful. As for the “lineage figure” in my family, I’ll have to think about that one. What’s “member sight”? The translation of the translation sounds like I’ve contributed an eyeball to a private eye bank.
If you read “above and beyond” the words, they make sense. It just takes some work to get the point, though maybe not about the “member sight” thing. Here is the English original:
Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on Lorelle on WordPress, and is a long time support volunteer for WordPress. Lorelle travels too much and reports about life on the road in Taking Your Camera on the Road and covers family history and genealogy on Lorelle’s Family History, and writes for too many blogs, ezines, and magazines.
Okay, so maybe the translation of the human translation missed by a few leaps and bounds. You see my point. Instant web translation isn’t yet ready for prime time.
It’s been over 15 years and I’m still dreaming of a world with no borders on the web. I’m ready to take blogging across the language barrier. Aren’t you?
“I see the world
Without any borders,
Without any fighting,
Without any fear.
So captain give the order,
We’re going to cross
the next frontier.”
From Up With People, in collaboration with Eugene Cernan
Lorelle VanFossen blogs about blogging and WordPress on Lorelle on WordPress.