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Twitter Enters the Murky World of Machine Translation

Twitter Enters the Murky World of Machine Translation

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.

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Twitter Expands Use of Bing Translation

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?

Twitter May Soon Offer Auto-Translate Feature

One of the nice things about Twitter is how easy it is to connect with people all over the world. For example, think of how Twitter has been used to help people communicate during disasters, providing real-time information about the Haiti earthquake to people across the globe. Unfortunately, at the moment, it’s only possible to communicate with people who are tweeting in the same language as you. However, Twitter’s language barrier may be about to come down: PCMag.com is reporting that the Twitter team may soon unveil an Auto-Translate feature for tweets.

Details are a little sketchy at the moment, as Twitter hasn’t yet released any details. However, writer Mark Hachman noticed that, for brief period of time on Wednesday of last week, the results page for trending topics featured 2 new options: the option to limit the tweets shown to a specific language and the option to automatically translate non-English tweets:

The results page (from one of Wednesday’s trending topics, “Bloodbuzz Ohio”) allows a user to filter a tweet by language, from Arabic to Icelandic to Thai. But just above that appeared a clickable option to translate the tweets on the page to my preferred language, English.

It’s not uncommon for Twitter to test out new features without announcing them before they are ready to roll out. The new feature appears to use Google Translate to provide the translations, so they probably won’t be perfect but they should get the point across.

There hasn’t been any official announcement about when the service will be available consistently for everyone, but look for it sometime in the near future. Once they get it rolled out, Twitter will become an even more powerful channel for global communication.

Twitter: the New Haiku?‎

Twitter, the microblogging social network that limits users to “tweets” of 140 characters or less, is growing across the globe. However, communicating with the world in 140-character bursts has really taken off in Japan, especially after the earthquake and its accompanying tsunami earlier this year.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Twitter’s Japanese membership increased by one third in just the first week after the earthquake. Of course, with other forms of communication cut off during the disaster, it’s not surprising that more people would jump on the Twitter bandwagon in an attempt to stay in touch with the outside world. Read more

Twitter Now Speaks Korean

Popular microblogging service Twitter just learned a new language: Korean. As of Wednesday, January 19th, Korean users can now send and receive tweets in their native Hangul alphabet from the Twitter website itself, instead of having to resort to a third-party application to translate the site.

In a Korean-language press release translated in the San Francisco Chronicle, Twitter wrote:

“With this launch, Twitter is now available in seven languages: English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Korean. With 70 percent of Twitter accounts belonging to users outside the U.S., it’s important for us to make Twitter available in as many languages as possible, and we hope to support even more by the end of this year.”

Why Korea? At a press conference, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams says that the decision was a result of increased demand. Read more

The Pope Tweets in Latin

Change sometimes comes slowly to the Catholic Church. However, last month the Vatican’s communications strategy took a huge leap forward when Pope Benedict XVI joined other world leaders on Twitter, under the username @Pontifex.

At first, his Holiness tweeted in English on his main account, with 7 other accounts dedicated to tweets in languages including Spanish, Portuguese and Italian. Last weekend, the Pope launched another account, this time in Latin. Read more