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Google adds Hawaiian Language

Web giant Google have added a Hawaiian language version of its search engine.

It was done by Keola Donaghy of the Ka Haka Ula Oke’elikolani college of Hawaiian Language. Keola Donaghy campaigned for 3 years to get Google to produce a Hawaiian version of its search engine. He estimates that it took him 100 hours to complete the translation…. Perhaps he should have used a professional translation company.

The Hawaiian version provides instructions in Hawaiian on Google’s search engine, although you will still find that the results still come back in English.

In order to complete the translation Keola Donaghy provided translations of 2,500 strings, words, sentences and paragraphs used by the search engine.

It’s great to see Google expanding its language options and it’s important they don’t ignore other important languages (such as Welsh).

The Hawaiian version of Google’s search engine is now available on Apples safari browser; it can be accessed by selecting Olelo Hawaii or Hawaiian language inside the system preferences on Apple.

It should be available on all other browsers next week.

Poetry is what gets lost in translation

Google Translate to Tackle Poetry

Robert Frost once said, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” However, according to NPR, that hasn’t stopped Google from attempting to translate poetry using their Google Translate machine translation service.

Google research scientist  Dmitriy Genzel told NPR that he considers effectively translating poetry to be the ultimate challenge, saying the attempt is “what we call AI complete. Which means it’s as difficult as anything we can attempt in artificial intelligence.”

What makes it so difficult? According to Carl Sandburg, “Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.” How do you translate that? It’s a challenge even for knowledgeable human translators to create a translation that captures both the rhythm of a poem and the layers of meaning it contains. Read more

Multilingual SEO

Multilingual SEO

If you’re a native English speaker, then you may believe that the internet is dominated by the English language. Almost all of the computer code, social networking, e-commerce and news sites that are most popular with English speakers were developed in the English-speaking world, and they mesh seamlessly with the language. However, while slightly more than half the web’s content is still written in English, that won’t be true for long. Only around a quarter of internet users have English as their primary language and internet usage of this demographic is growing at a much faster rate.

Most people require or prefer web content that’s written in their native language. For international businesses to really engage with customers they need to have versions of their websites written in each of the languages their customers speak. In some parts of the world, even local businesses have to engage with more than one language group. Read more

Machine Translation Versus Human Translation: A Professional Weighs In

Which is better, machine-powered translation or human-powered translation? In this weekend’s New York Times, David Bellos, the director of the Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication at Princeton University, weighs in.

Bellos points out that  both machines and humans make mistakes in translation. While we like to joke about the fallacy of relying on a machine to translate all the different nuances of language, translators who are poorly trained or are working too hard make errors, too.

Machine Translation

Bellos notes that machine translation is well-suited to situations where there are not enough translators or interpreters available and translations don’t have to be perfect to be usable. For example, machine translation was extremely helpful for emergency personnel on the ground in Haiti.

However, machine translation relies on either a dictionary of words or their meanings combined with the rules of grammar that can be used to combine them or on comparing the text being translated to other, similar texts that have already been translated. Neither method is 100% accurate, especially when it comes to translating literature, creative writing and figures of speech.  Even Google Translate, which has access to all of the literature contained in Google’s considerable library of books, often comes up with gibberish when faced with literary translations.

Sure, computers don’t get tired, and they don’t base their performance on whether or not they are being paid a decent salary. But, as Bellos notes:

“Machine translation is not conceived or programmed to take into account the purpose, real-world context or style of any utterance. “

In situations in which an accurate translation is a must, a qualified human translator who is familiar with the nuances of both languages and cultures will beat a machine every time-even if the machine has all the power of Google behind it.

Google +1 on K International's blog

We have added the google +1 to the top right hand corner of all pages on our blog. So if you like an article click on the button to vote for it. It helps us by appearing higher in the rankings and helps you to share great content with your friends and family.

The video below (from google) explains more about the +1 button.

I’m hoping that you find the new +1 addition to K International useful. As always, I would love to hear your feedback, ideas and suggestions. Comment are live below.

Additional

We have also just added the +1 button to the rest of the site (along with a tweet button). See image below for location.

 

Gmail logo

Gmail Incorporates Automatic Translation

Google just unleashed a new feature to help users break through the language barrier. After you enable the feature, you’ll be able to translate any email you receive with a quick click of the mouse. The new Gmail translation feature can translate 41 different languages, including Thai, Estonian and Maltese.

Automatic translation is available to all Gmail users including those who use the email software as part of the apps collaboration and communication suite for organizations. It will help users to communicate better in today’s multilingual world.

The goal of this feature is to make it easier for people who work for international companies to communicate. Theoretically, using the Gmail translation feature you could hold a conversation via email with employees from around the world, and each employee would be able to communicate using his or her native language.

Chris Dawson of ZDNet Education sees another possibility for the new feature: allowing students to have email pen pals who speak other languages.

However, it should be noted that computerized translation is far from perfect. No computer program has yet been invented that can correctly translate 100% of conversations from one language to another, especially when figurative language or colloquial expressions are being used. So, messages translated using Gmail’s translation service may come out sounding a little off when read by a native speaker.

This new tool is useful however, users should be aware that machine translation is not always reliable, even Google themselves have acknowledged that machine translation technology isn’t perfect.

Google do maintain that even if mistakes creep into the text, the recipient will be able to get the gist of the message.

In an article on eWeek.com, Jeff Chin, the Project Manager of Google Translate, said as much in an email interview:

“It can be quite useful in providing the quick gist of a message, especially if you receive a lot of e-mails that aren’t in your native tongue,” he wrote. “If the translation is awkward or not quite right, you can quickly return to the original message by clicking ‘View original message’ link.”

If clear communication is your goal, it is advisable to use a professional translation company who can assist you with your translation needs

Noto: One Font to Rule Them All?

The amount of non-English-language web content has been growing dramatically over the past few years.  However, there are still some significant challenges when it comes to making content available in other languages. One of the biggest issues is how to represent languages that don’t use the Latin script.

Soon, that may not be a problem. Google, in collaboration with partners including companies like Adobe, is working on a rather ambitious project: Noto Fonts, a font family that “aims to support all the world’s languages” and “achieve visual harmonization across languages.” 

At the moment, Noto Fonts features 100 scripts and 100,000 characters, and is capable of representing 600 written languages. That’s a great start, but there’s still a ways to go. According to Ethnologue, of the currently listed 7,105 living languages, 3,570 have a developed writing system.”  Plus, there are around 3,000 languages that may or not have writing systems of their own- we simply don’t know. 

 As Tanvi Misrah notes on NPR’s Codeswitch blog, with Noto, Google is building on the previous work of the Unicode project.

Unicode currently features 100 scripts and more than 110,000 characters. However, the project has faced allegations of cultural insensitivity in the past, particularly when the time came to code Asian fonts. Between Chinese, Japanese and Korean, they ran out of code. Their solution was something called “Han unification.” As Finn Brunton, a professor at New York University explained to NPR: 

“So they were like, ‘Hey, you know, Chinese, Japanese, Korean — they’re pretty close. Can we just mash big chunks of them together?'” explains Brunton.

Obviously, people who actually use these scripts were less than pleased with the compromise.  To Brunton, the dust-up over Han unification indicates a larger problem with these sorts of projects:

“There’s all these different, sort of, approaches, which are fundamentally, obviously reflecting cultural models — cultural biases. But when they get substantiated into software, they turn into exclusionary systems.”

To its credit, Noto has preserved the variations in script between the different languages. As its partner Adobe notes on its blog, “While the variations may be subtle, especially to the Western eye, they are very important to the users of each language.”

However, other languages have fared less well, according to NPR.  Urdu and Persian, for example, must be written in the Arabic naskh script, another case of subtle-yet-important distinctions being erased in the name of simplicity:

“The naskh script of the Arabic alphabet is more angular, linear — and incidentally, easier to code — than the nastaliq script. So that’s what is currently present in Noto for the Urdu language, even though Persian and Urdu language communities say nastaliq is a more accurate representation.”

That said, according to Google this only a temporary situation as they work to develop a  nastaliq script.

The NPR article has inspired a lively debate amongst commenters, with some accusing Noto’s critics of making the perfect the enemy of the good.

For example, Brad Zimmmerman says

I am the last person that will defend Google, but – in my opinion – it is unreasonable to criticise a project that already has good support for a huge number of languages and is *still in development*. It’s even a bit more unreasonable considering that Google’s efforts – the fonts themselves – are free *and* released under the Apache License, a very generous and easy-to-get-along-with license.”

What do you think of Noto? Is Google doing enough to address the concerns of minority language communities?

Google Joins the Language Preservation Fight

Google’s commitment to its “don’t be evil” motto has been in question for some time. However, there’s no question that they do sometimes use their powers for good, and this week’s announcement of the Endangered Languages project is a perfect example.

The Endangered Languages Project is a searchable online repository for information about endangered languages that should foster collaboration among people interested in preserving them. As Google explained on its blog, the project

“gives those interested in preserving languages a place to store and access research, share advice and build collaborations. People can share their knowledge and research directly through the site and help keep the content up-to-date.”

Previously, archives of information on lost and endangered languages were scattered among various universities and other institutions. With The Endangered Languages project, these organizations can make all of this information available online, so others can access it without needing to travel.

The project is the brainchild of Google’s Jason Rissman, who noticed that scholars had already begun to use YouTube to store recordings of endangered languages and decided to get involved. Rissman told Time Magazine that when it comes to language preservation,

“There have been a lot of silent efforts. There have been a lot of exciting projects happening at the regional and community level, but this is the first time anyone is bringing it all together.”

Now that the site is live, Google is handing the reins over to language preservation experts like the First People’s Cultural Council and the Institute for Language Information and Technology. Anybody can contribute information about a given language, though presumably an expert will moderate content to make sure its accurate. Still, this should be a wonderful way for groups of language speakers to take the lead in recording their languages for future generations, assuming Internet access is available.

You also don’t have to be a scholar to enjoy browsing the site, which has information about 3,054 endangered languages (though some languages have more documentation than others.) Just a language nerd. Go check it out!

Google and Facebook Release New Translation Tools

Both Google and Facebook released new translation tools for websites over the past week. Both companies announced the new tools on wednesday, in honor of International Translation Day.

Google’s website translation gadget allows you to make your web content available automatically in 51 different languages. To use it, all you have to do is insert a few lines code into your page.

The code checks the browser settings of your site’s visitors to see what language they use. If their preferred language is different than the language your page is written in, they will see a banner offering them the option of automatically translating the page into their language. All they have to do is click on the magic button, and presto, your website is translated for them.

Facebook’s translation tool, called Translations for Facebook Connect, also translates the text of your page to make it more accessible to your visitors. However, it’s a little bit different…instead of automatically translating the text; it allows you to crowd source the translation process to other Facebook users. You also have the option to translate the page yourself. However, the translations only work for visitors who are on Facebook and log in to Facebook Connect.

These automatic translation tools are a great way to expand the number of people you can reach with your website. However, if you are aiming for viewers from a particular country or language group, it is still worth it to invest in professional translation.

As Jeff Chin of Google noted in his blog post announcing the new website translation gadget:

“Automatic translation is convenient and helps people get a quick gist of the page. However, it’s not a perfect substitute for the art of professional translation.”

Android Market

Google’s Android Market Isn’t Speaking Customers’ Language

When designing a website, users generally prefer it when everything “just works.” Unfortunately, when it comes to translation, trying to guess their needs can backfire if you don’t guess correctly.

That’s a lesson that Web behemoth Google is learning the hard way.  Google just unveiled its new Android Market website last week, hoping to entice customers with Android phones to purchase more apps with an improved shopping experience. Read more