Last week you may have heard, or even seen, that Twitter has been trialling automated translation of tweets from certain individuals in Egypt. Following the recent political upheaval, the former president Mohammed Morsi, opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei and Arab Spring activist Wael Ghonim have all had tweets made available to non-Arabic speaking readers.
To celebrate the beginning of the World Cup in Brazil, Twitter has begun using Bing Translation to make it easier to read tweets in other languages.
The translation feature was already available on the Twitter webpage and Windows phones, and Twitter began testing it on its Android app a couple of weeks ago. Now, it’s been made available on the iOS app for Apple devices. That should cover most smartphone users, with the exception of the last few stubborn BlackBerry users.
Currently, to translate a tweet from the one of the mobile apps, you have to exit the timeline by clicking on the individual tweet. However, Twitter also just made it easier to translate tweets on its webpage directly in the timeline. Now, all you have to do is click on the grey globe icon in the top right corner of the tweet, and you’ll get an option to view the translation. The translation appears below the original tweet.
According to CNET:
“The changes could increase Twitter’s already considerable utility and influence as a global communications medium. People use Twitter not just to find about about sporting events in Brazil, but also political protests in Turkey, elections in Europe, and civil war in Syria.”
While machine translation is the only realistic option for a service like Twitter, it’s important to keep in mind that machine translation is far from perfect at this point. Combine that with how quickly information and misinformation alike spread on Twitter, and it will be interesting to see what happens. I predict that in the months to come, we’ll have plenty of examples of both the potential and the pitfalls of this technology.
What do you think of Twitter’s new translation options?
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