Posts

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

Language service company warning signs

Selecting the Right Language Service Company

Vic MarcusToday we have a special guest post from Vic Marcus, Vice President of Business Development at NWI Global, a language translation & interpreting company based in Vancouver, Washington, USA.

You recently learned that the content you produced in English will now need to be translated into 16 languages, including Spanish, Arabic and Simplified Chinese. You also know that your organization requires you to go out for a bid to find the best possible supplier that will meet your quality, cost and turnaround time requirements.

Your supplier database of language service companies is fairly thin and you believe more companies need to participate in the bidding process, so you go on the web to search for more potential suppliers. This is a great way to bolster your competitive bid process, but what if you could eliminate certain suppliers before they can even submit a bid? This will save you a lot of time and ensure you choose the language service company best suited for your project.

Here are the five reasons not to work with a language service company that came up in your Google search results. Eliminate these companies prior to starting your formal bidding process.

  1. Outdated Content – Blast From The Past
    You clicked on a link and it took you back in time. The company’s website was last updated years ago. In today’s market, it’s about customer engagement using various online and social media tools. One of the primary marketing tools a company has is its website. Having an outdated website is a red flag. If the company doesn’t care about its own online content and appearance, why should you trust them to deliver quality content translated into other languages?
  2.  No Contact Information – Don’t Contact Us, We May Contact You
    You found what seems like a legitimate company and you are interested in having it participate in your bidding process. You’d now like to communicate the bid information to this company. You look everywhere on the navigation menu and can’t find a clear way to contact them. Sure, it could be a poorly designed navigation structure, but it could also be that this company doesn’t want you to contact them by making it really difficult to do so.At a minimum, every company must have a contact page and the contact page should contain the following elements:
    • Company’s Name and Physical Address
    • Contact Form or an E-mail Address
    • Links to the Company’s Social Media Channels
    • Telephone NumberIf there is no physical address listed, does this company really have an office they operate out of? This is something to think about in your search efforts.
  1. Spelling and Grammatical Errors – Your Smart, My Smart, We all Smart
    The company didn’t take the time and effort to proofread and edit the content on their website. If that’s an indication of how they approach their translation projects, I’d head for the hills now. 
  1. We do Everything – Jack of All Trades
    This company claims to do it all and do it well. All professional fields have their areas of expertise. You wouldn’t go to a psychiatrist for brain surgery (a physical one, anyway). And it’s very unlikely that a psychiatrist is a brain surgeon, and vice versa. It’s also unlikely that a company can do patent translations and community interpreting. There are language service companies that do a lot of things well, but they are few and far between. Finding a speciality shop that can scale with your needs is your best bet. 
  1. We do it Fast & Cheap – Race to Zero
    Since you will be going out for a competitive bid, pricing is most certainly a factor in your decision. Keep in mind that not all language service companies deliver the same level of service. If quality is important to you, be prepared to invest in it. There will always be a company out there that can do it for less, but at what cost?

There are many good language service companies out there and a few not so good ones. Keep the above five reasons in mind when putting together your list of bid stakeholders. It will save you a lot of time and make the competition a lot more interesting. Good luck in your search!

Vic Marcus is the Vice President of Business Development at NWI Global, a language services company specializing in B2B and B2G content translation & interpreting. Vic has over 10 years of experience in the language services industry, and is continuously involved in educating all stakeholders about the translation & interpretation process.

Google Penalizes Bad Machine Translation

& 10 tips for good international SEO

Planning to translate your business website into another language? Free, automatic translation tools like Google Translate might seem tempting, but here’s one more reason to avoid relying on them: Google doesn’t like it. And if Google doesn’t like it, you’d better not do it, at least not if you value your website traffic.

It seems odd that the search engine gods would issue penalties for using Google’s own product, but apparently search engine spammers have been publishing lots of awkward, error-laden machine translated content.  To keep their results as accurate as possible, Google classifies automatically translated content as “automatically generated content,” which violates their webmaster guidelines.

That means that poorly translated content could seriously impact your rankings.  Also,  as Ariel Hochstadt pointed out in Search Engine Land, if you’ve monetized your site using AdSense, your account could be disabled for including “websites with gibberish content that makes no sense or seems auto-generated.”

Ironically, Google itself has started using automatically generated content on its own properties, like the Google Play store. However, as Search Engine Land points out, it appears that Google is using some sort of new and improved Google Translate that’s not available to the general public.

Why not release the latest and greatest Translate tool? Hochstadt speculates:

My best bet is that Google is afraid of mass spamming that could be hard to identify. Nevertheless, if they think it is good enough for them to publish it on their Android and Chrome stores, why wouldn’t they allow others to do the same in Google Translate? Knowing Google, you probably are aware that their rules sometimes oblige us, but don’t apply to those located in Mountain View.

Fair or not, you’re better off using a professional translator, or at the very least having the final product reviewed by someone who is fluent in your target language and able to correct any mistakes. To help you out and keep you the right side of the Google police, we have put together a collection of 10 International SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tips that you can employ to help boost the performance of your multilingual site. Read more

Google Analytics gets Spanish Blog

Web giant Google have just launched a Spanish version of their analytics blog.

The blog covers a range of Google measurement tools including Google Analytics, Website Optimizer, Insights for Search, AdPlanner and others.

Both Googlers and Google Analytics Authorized Consultants (GAAC’s) who speak Spanish will use the blog to share basic tips and advanced web analytics techniques which will hopefully help the decision makers integrate data from these tools into their business strategies.

The blog has been named ‘Central de Conversiones’. Important posts from the English Google Analytics blog will be translated into Spanish and uploaded onto the new blog. There will also be original content created and share studies which will be specific to the Spanish speaking markets.

The English blog is very useful so this new blog should open Google Analytics to a much wider audiences.

Google Logo

Google’s App Now Translates as You Talk

Google just rolled out a new update for users of its translation app for Android phones. But this isn’t just any software update: the upgraded app now has a “conversation mode” feature that translates as you talk!

For example, let’s say you’re grocery shopping in Mexico. Suddenly, you find you’ve blanked out on your high school Spanish and can’t remember how to order what you want from the deli. With Conversation Mode, you could press a button, ask for what you want in English, and have your phone translate it into Spanish and read the translation to the salesperson. Then, the salesperson could answer back in Spanish, and the app would translate it into English. No more quizzical looks, no more hanging your head in shame at not being able to make yourself understood. Brilliant! Read more

Corporate Translation Guide

Translation Guide for Business

Here at K International, we are regularly asked by our clients what is actually involved in translation. There is not really one overall answer to this as it is very much dependent on how you intend to use the results. Some clients appear to see translation as a low cost means of increasing sales or even treat it as a complete after thought, a simple last minute process. With the advent of tools such as Google translate, this notion of a straight forward push button solution seems to be becoming even more embedded into people’s way of thinking. Read more