Twitter has announced that it will expand its translation feature by testing automatic translation with a small group of users in Brazil. The social media giant currently supports built-in translations that allow users to click or tap a tweet written in a foreign language.
For users who set their primary language to English on Twitter, any tweet using a non-English language will provide a translation button. As convenient as this method might appear, it also adds a step to the user experience, requiring manual action for the user to opt into the translation. In order to simplify that process, Twitter hopes to experiment with automatic translation so that all tweets will be automatically available to the user.
In a blog post, Twitter explains:
“To make it easier to understand the conversations you follow on Twitter, we’re experimenting with automatic translation for Tweets in other languages that appear on your homepage. We know that it can sometimes take a long time to translate Tweet by Tweet into different languages and stay on top of what is relevant to you.” (This text was translated from Portuguese by Google.)
The posts will provide an alert at the bottom to notify the user that the tweet has been translated and by whom. Although the company did not state whether it will partner with any machine translation providers, it does mention both Google and Microsoft as possible options. The company could also be weighing the possibility of combining the services to provide the most accurate translation available.
Among some of the issues of the new feature, the default translation could become a frustration for users. One obvious issue currently facing machine translation is the inaccuracy that occasions some translations. Furthermore, bilingual or multilingual users who have can only choose one language as their primary language might prefer a feature that allows them to read tweets in both languages or to continue in the opt-in structure.
Whether these issues will hold back the scaling of this new feature is not clear, but Twitter has not yet set any plans to expand the automatic translation any further than Brazil.