Tag: google translate


Google Translate Causes Vaccine Mishap

Language in Business, Language in the News, Localization Basics, Personalization and Design, Translation, Translation Technology, Uncategorized

Last week, MultiLingual reported on a Virginia Department of Health website translation error that incorrectly told Spanish speakers they don’t need coronavirus vaccines. New information from Richmond, Virginia newspaper The Virginian-Pilot now reveals how this error came to be.

“The Virginia Department of Health’s main sources for translating critical covid-19 and vaccine information are three marketing agencies that don’t list translation services on their websites and Google Translate,” Sabrina Moreno reports, pointing out that both translation reliability experts and Google itself caution medical providers not to use the free online tool for medical translations. Google translated “the vaccine is not required” as “the vaccine is not necessary” on the Department of Health’s frequently asked questions website.

In the United States, Hispanics have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus with higher death and hospitalization rates than white Americans. Ensuring this group has access to covid-19 vaccines is of particular importance in Virginia where — as of January 13th — Latinos only accounted for 9 percent of those receiving a dose despite making up 21 percent of the commonwealth’s covid-19 hospitalizations.

“Immigrant advocates and certified translators said the state’s failure to prioritize adequate translation showed Virginia’s lack of investment in populations already facing a trust gap in the health care system and language barriers that have historically limited access to medical care,” writes Moreno.

Luis Oyola, director of organizing for Legal Aid Justice Center in Richmond, says he’s been warning the state of what Moreno calls “the desperate need for translated and culturally competent materials” since March. “The government is reaping what they sowed,” Oyola told The Virginian-Pilot

The government, however, continues to stand beside its mistranslation. “Many Spanish speakers do read this form as it was intended — namely, to make clear the vaccine is not mandatory and therefore will not be forced on anyone,” director of communications Maria Reppas told local television station ABC 8News.

Nearly 1.4 million Virginians speak a language other than English at home. More than half of these people speak Spanish.

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Terena Bell is an independent journalist who writes for The Atlantic, Washington Post, Fast Company and others. She is former CEO of In Every Language.


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Top Lesser-Known Google Translate Tricks


Even people who have never heard of machine translation have often heard of Google Translate — because it makes communication easier. Sure, it makes mistakes sometimes. If you write an entry in a specific dialect, the app will probably translate it wrong. Some of the mistakes are downright ridiculous. 

But let’s be honest: the app works well most of the time, and it can even work for learning a new language. So here are some Google Translate tricks to try.

Use Offline Google Translation

Most people know how to use the service when they are connected to the internet. But what if you’re traveling and you’re not connected 24/7? The Google Translate app gives you an option for offline use. This requires some brief preparation, during which you will need an internet connection. 

  • In the settings menu, you’ll see the “Offline translation” option. Tap on it.
  • You’ll see a list of languages that are available for this option. Download the software for the language that you need. Don’t download them all, since the app would consume too much space on your device. Each language package weighs 35+ MB. 
  • Wait for the language package to download. 

Let the Google Translate App Replace a Dictionary

You understand the text you read or the things you hear? Maybe a single word or phrase confuses you. Instead of using an individual dictionary app, you can rely on a translation. Google’s app will give you a translation, and an explanation of the word as well. It’s just what a dictionary app would do. 

Translate Highlighted Text from an Image

This is another cool trick that you can use when traveling. You can snap a photo, and the Google Translate app will translate the text on it. That’s useful when you want to understand menus, street signs, or any other text without typing it. 

  • In the app’s home screen, you’ll notice a camera icon on the left side. 
  • The app will ask for language settings. Set the source language on the left, and the output on the right. 
  • The app will prompt you to take a Google Translate picture. Snap it!
  • You’ll need to highlight the area with text that you want to be translated. To see what it means, press the blue arrow. That’s how you use the Google Translate camera feature.

Explore Recipes from Around the World

This one gets a little creative, but are you trying to improve your kitchen skills? Here’s something that will motivate you: focus on a foreign food culture each month. This month, you can learn about Persian cuisine and cook some of its recipes. Next month, you’ll explore Greek cuisine. Then you’ll proceed with France, Italy, Honduras… be creative! Google Translate could help you find authentic recipes. Instead of searching for recipes in your native language, explore them in their native language. It’s how you’ll get to the source of the food culture. 

The Internet is full of food blogs in all languages. Translate the pages and you’ll have the original recipes at your fingertips. 

Use Google Translate in Conversation Mode

When you’re trying to make conversation with someone who speaks a foreign language, you can use the Google Translate audio feature. As participants in the conversation speak, the app will detect their voices through the microphone, and it will give you a translation in the chosen language: 

  • The home screen of your app gives you a “conversation mode” feature with a microphone icon. Tap on it. 
  • The app is ready for listening. Just hold the device’s microphone close when you speak. Then, let the app speak in the chosen language. Switch the languages when your partner responds.  

Use Google Translate for Research

When you engage in deep research, it’s best to look into the direct sources of information. Let’s say you’re discussing World War II in a research paper. Wouldn’t it be great to access original German documents? When looking through resources in your native language, this information will be briefly mentioned. If you want to deepen your research, use Google Translate on news articles, research studies, and academic texts in a language that’s relevant to your topic.  

Use Google Translate for TikTok and Other Video Voiceovers

Want to add something to your TikTok videos? Google Translate has a speech function, albeit a robotic one. Use the app or the desktop tool to translate the text you need. Then, click/tap on the audio icon to hear the speech. This is a cool trick for making videos of speaking pets, for example. The robotic voiceover makes them unique and fun.

Create a Personal Dictionary through the App

Did you know that you can save your favorite words and phrases? Maybe you find yourself repeatedly translating a particular word. You can save it in your personal dictionary. Maybe you found a cool phrase you want to remember. Save it, too:

  • You’ll notice a star symbol next to the translation that you get. Tap on it, and you’ll immediately add it to your Saved list. 
  • To view the entries you saved, look for the Saved button at the bottom of the device’s screen. 



James Dorian is a technical copywriter. He is a tech geek who enjoys reading and writing on technology, business, and ways to become a real pro in our modern world of innovations. You can also check out one of his articles on how to use TikTok.


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Monitoring your multilingual website’s performance during quarantine traffic

Localization, Multimedia Translation

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced governments to issue quarantine and even lockdown measures, as well as restricting most forms of travel and social gatherings. Because of this, computers and smartphones are one of the few mediums people use to stay connected with their family and friends, and also to stay in the loop. But when you have this many people around the world going online and staying home on a prolonged basis, this presents ripe website traffic opportunities.

With this in mind, translating your website is a good way of attracting global traffic. But if you already had that idea in the first place, how sure are you that your multilingual website can handle the sudden surge in global traffic? There are tools and strategies you can use to ensure that your multilingual website is consistently up to speed. You should obviously employ localization, a subset of globalization (not to be confused with internationalization), to further refine your multilingual website in order for you to bring in more traffic.

Quarantine measures are creating a global traffic goldmine

Let’s do a quick recap of the global situation in regard to internet traffic. As you know, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in governments implementing quarantine measures and telecommuting schemes. Most global and even domestic nonessential travel is restricted for the next few weeks and months, depending on how countries can properly contain the virus within their own borders.

As a result, hundreds of millions to even billions of people around the world are now quarantined indoors to some degree, and must continue to social distance until their governments say otherwise. This unprecedented scale of people staying indoors presents ripe website traffic opportunities.

COVID-19 news is not always what people want to read about and watch. People can only take in so much somber news in one day, so browsing the internet and social media is helping people stay entertained and informed, and at the very least, sane under quarantine. Web traffic has gone up quite a lot as more people hunker down.

What does this mean for websites? An effective digital marketing strategy in general is one that can adjust and accommodate global trends. So what can you do to grab your slice of the hundreds of millions of internet users staying at home? It’s pretty straightforward in the end: Having a multilingual website can attract a multilingual audience.

But with so much global traffic now at your digital doorstep, can your multilingual website even handle such a surge in traffic? That’s something you have to strongly consider as even a network giant such as Netflix had to cap their bandwidth by limiting the quality of streaming from high definition to standard definition.

But even if you’re not witnessing that much crippling traffic on your website, at least for now, it’s better to stay proactive. After all, significantly slow loading speeds and website outages can result in drastic consequences to your current and future traffic. For instance, Google’s marketing industry resource Think with Google reported the industry benchmark for page load times should be under three seconds.

At three seconds, the chances users will bounce increase by 32%. At five seconds, bounce probability increases to 50%. No matter how you look at it, those are staggering statistics. One second is all it takes for users to look the other way. In the end, it pays to have good website health, especially when taking into account current traffic conditions.

How to translate your website

Pew Research surveyed 34 countries during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of these, 32 reported that over half to nine-tenths of their population use the internet, with North America, Europe, East and Southeast Asia, and some countries in Latin America exhibiting the highest internet usage.

If you’re wondering which language can bring you the most returns in traffic, Internet World Stats showed that in 2019, other than English, Chinese and Spanish were the top internet languages. There were nearly 900 million Chinese internet users and nearly 400 million Spanish internet users. If you can effectively localize your website to even just one language, you have the potential to attract millions of viewers.

How you go about website translation can range from using Google Translate to a separate optimized website with all the assets localized to the intended target audience.

But you don’t exclusively need to create another website in another domain. You can simply use subdirectories to create another multilingual version of your pages. Each subdirectory will have its respective translated pages, in which case you have to provide a panel for users to simply switch between languages.

You can also opt to create an entire new translated website registered in a regional domain. For instance, if you want to create a Japanese website exclusively for mainland Japanese audiences, then you have to have your website registered in their domains for it to be indexed locally. This is a long-term and pricey way of making a multilingual website. But it helps knowing your long-term options with your multilingual website for future reference.

As for the actual process of translating your website content, could Google Translate be enough? You might think it’s too good to be true — why doesn’t everyone have a multilingual website if Google Translate is right there for us to use? Your suspicions are well-founded.

Indeed, Google Translate, or any free online translator for that matter, is very convenient to use and is mostly free. And WordPress features plenty of handy website translation plugins. But Google Translate, and machine translation (MT) in general, is not without its shortcomings. Even though MT development has achieved great strides in recent years, Google Translate can’t accurately translate complex and nuanced expressions. It also can’t handle lengthy sentences and paragraphs without diverging away from text’s actual context. Free online translators can only accurately work with generic texts and common expressions.

Truth to be told, inaccurate and inappropriate translations can damage your website and brand image, especially if you’re reaching out to a new foreign audience for the first time. Proper and effective website translation is more than just copy-pasting translated content onto your website’s content management platform. After all, if it was that easy, everybody would be doing it right from the start.

Your safest option, one that can bring you good results without backfiring, is by hiring a website translator. It’s the same basic idea as hiring a website developer to create your website. You’d want a website translator familiar with website architecture both at the backend and frontend. You can find them either at freelance platforms such as Upwork or from a translation company. A translation company provides diverse translation services legal translation, medical translation, and yes, website translation services.

Have an arsenal of website analytics and performance tools

The standard way to ensure your website is up to speed, not just in terms of loading speeds, but also in terms of overall website health, is to run a website audit. You can use website audit tools to crawl around the website and give you a website health score. As a refresher, they crawl around your website and look for broken links, duplicate tags, gauge loading speed, and any other bugs and issues that can harm its user experience (UX). Generally, an average score of 88 out of a 100 (and higher) is what you want.

But your score will be more meaningful if it can maintain high marks relative to the amount of traffic your multilingual website gets. You can easily keep track of your traffic through a variety of tools, Google Analytics being one of the most popular. It even checks the amount of time users spent per page and whether or not they accessed it through a computer or their phone.

When your site is experiencing a surge in traffic, you have to put the effort in maintaining a consistently high score. However, as with many things in website development in general, that’s easier said than done. There’s a high chance of encountering initial setbacks with your multilingual website if it’s your first time doing it. But since you can’t afford to miss out on global traffic, then you should waste no time in making improvements.

A website health score is affected by a multitude of things. But if you think you’ve already done so much on your own end such as repairing 404 errors, optimizing graphics, revising tags, then consider upgrading your hosting plan. If you originally subscribed to a shared hosting plan, then consider upgrading your hosting plan to cloud hosting since it’s considerably faster than shared hosting.

While shared hosting is cheaper, by definition, you’ll be sharing space with other website owners. The more people are crowded in one server, the slower loading speeds will get. On the other hand, cloud hosting servers are not tied to servers in one geographic location. They consist of multiple servers located throughout the world that act as one server.

If you have a shared hosting plan and the server malfunctions, then all websites under it will go offline. If a cloud server malfunctions, then other servers can take the additional load, which means your website stays online. Cloud hosting is more expensive, but it’s often worth the extra investment.

However, are tools and upgraded hosting plans enough to optimize your traffic? As you probably know, there’s a lot more work that goes into attracting and maintaining traffic than just backend maintenance. You should put as much effort on your website’s frontend as you do on your backend. But again, this is easier said than done.


What if you’re not getting the traffic results you need? Should you translate your website to a few more languages? Truth to be told, if you don’t have a sound content marketing strategy, then there will be significant diminishing returns the more languages you try to cover. And it won’t be worth the additional time and investment.

Rather, you can maximize the effectiveness of just one language through localization. Localization is the process of adjusting content to fit the needs, preferences and interests of a target audience. You could say that’s just marketing in general, but localization is different.

It’s mostly employed as means of reaching out to foreign audiences. Localization goes deeper than translation. It’s about making a lasting and meaningful impression by resonating with them. Website localization also has its unique checklist dos, don’ts and know-hows.

Website developers and owners know that user design (UD) and user experience (UX) are what will make or break a website. But again, that’s easier said than done, and you probably know that with your experience optimizing your English website. So how do you localize UD and UX?

One of the most important factors is aesthetics. One peer-reviewed study explored how users ranked website design elements relative to user experience. The researchers found out that graphical representation is the second most important design element after navigation. In that case, aesthetics is a highly significant factor.

Some cultures and societies have preferred color schemes. For instance, some view red as a lucky color while others view it as a hostile and unlucky color. Depending on your target audience, you have to adjust to their preferred color schemes that’ll evoke good impressions.

Another factor in providing a localized UD and UX is optimizing typography. For many languages, you need to have it written in their native writing systems. In that case, you have to adapt your typography until it meets a satisfying visual standard for your foreign audience. In other words, you have to worry about how your texts look and whether or not it’s appropriate, legible and aesthetically pleasing.

Chinese, for instance, has characters with very intricate strokes. So the right font is crucial. Another example is Arabic. Unlike most writing systems that are read left-to-right, Arabic is one of the handful of languages in the world that’s read from right-to-left.

Localize content that follows trends

Since you’re dealing with a foreign audience, you’ll have to expand your content research process to their domain, literally and figuratively. You have to make sure your content incorporates local numerics from currencies, units of measurement, time zones and so on. But other than that, you need to also share content that follows local prevailing trends.

Following trends and knowing what your audience wants to read and watch is one of the essentials in SEO practices. You can’t come up with good localized content without obviously knowing the prevailing trends in their pop culture. However, knowing what they want to read and/or watch is one thing. Making sure that your content actually appears on their regional search engine is another distinct SEO consideration.

Having proper keywords is part of good SEO and good Google rankings. You can certainly adapt through localized keyword research. Each country has its own preferred keywords, and languages are divided by distinct regional variations and dialects. For example, the word “apartment” is used in the US, but the word “flat” is the keyword in the UK.

Website localization is a long-term consideration, especially if you plan to register in regional domains. Doing it right can take a long time, much more than just website translation alone. In fact, website translation is just part of website localization if you look at the wider picture. So whether or not website localization is worth undertaking is up to you to decide. But if you do decide it’s worth a shot, then it’s also worth doing right.

Have your multilingual website proofread

Before deploying your localized multilingual website, you have to test it first. You’re not only looking for bugs, but most importantly, translation errors and localization faux pas. This requires an expert and objective eye. For that, you need to have localization experts and beta testers.

Ensure that your beta testers are native speakers. Their local knowledge can provide you with nuanced criticisms on how to refine your website. You can easily find a website localization expert from the same translation company since localization is one of the language service industry’s staple services.

All in all, even if the urge to quickly deploy your multilingual website is too tempting, it’s worth doing it the right way with the right people with the right knowledge and experience on board. It’s worth exerting the time and effort to properly optimize both the frontend and backend of your website for it to be capable of attracting and retaining new incoming streams of foreign traffic.

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Laurence Ian Sumando is a freelance writer who pens articles on business, marketing and the language service industry.


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Translators and interpreters respond to the Covid-19 pandemic


Millions of Americans have been ordered to stay at home with various state-specific rules across the US — instructions that are hard enough to grasp if you speak English. It’s harder still for the 8% of Americans considered Limited English Proficient (LEP). As new updates and guidelines are issued by the day — in English-only communication, for the most part — what happens if critical messages aren’t communicated to LEP citizens? To put it bluntly: how are we going to stop the spread if a group of 25 million Americans goes uninformed?

Several state and county websites are relying on Google Translate, a service that is better than nothing, but often fails to convey information in an accurate and clear way. This method also assumes LEP citizens will find and successfully navigate the website on their own. Cities like Boston are making efforts to reach all residents, despite their language proficiency or internet access. The city launched a multilingual text service for COVID-19 updates and also distributed informative pamphlets outlining preventative measures and city resources.

And what about businesses, hospitals and government agencies? Well, many are calling on the often behind-the-scenes language services industry, largely made up of freelance translators and interpreters and language service providers (LSP) who serve as intermediaries between end clients and independent contractors.

Melissa Harkin of Harkin Translations, Inc., a boutique LSP specializing in Portuguese, Spanish and English languages, has seen a 32% increase in workload for February when compared to the same month last year. “The spike is specifically related to the outbreak,” Harkin said. Her company receives daily requests to translate different types of content related to the pandemic: internal communications for human resources, travel advisories, urgent scientific papers for the international research community and new state or national policies, among others.

“Most of the requests are urgent, so we’ve been working extra hours,” Harkin continued. “We’ve experienced similar spikes in the past, such as the H1N1 flu pandemic, Ebola outbreak and the 2011 Rio de Janeiro floods and mudslides.” What she’s not sure of is how long this will continue. “The full global economic impact of the pandemic is yet to be seen,” she said.

Steve Lank, vice president of translation services at Cesco Linguistic Services headquartered in Denver, Colorado, has been pulling long days, seven days per week, to service COVID-19-related translation needs for clients since late February. “We’ve seen a huge spike in requests for translation services,” he said. “And everything is urgent. We have to get the news out fast.”

Clients requesting these services range from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to hospitals, clinics, public schools, non-profit organizations and social services. They’re working around the clock to translate critical health and safety information for the LEP public. This includes factsheets for travel, information on preparing for potential lockdown, memos on proper hand washing, as well as explanations of testing procedures and social distancing, among hundreds of others.

“Things are changing constantly. One day, we translated a sign for the CDHPE stating: ‘CDPHE is not offering COVID-19 testing for the general public,’” Lank said. The next day, a state of emergency was declared, and they started offering testing. “Then, we had to translate a new sign,” he chuckled.

For the remote team at Translations in Motion, Inc., a few of their contractors played a critical role in the medical care of American expats at the onset of COVID-19 in China. When the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) airlifted American expats from Hubei Province and Wuhan City back to the states, those who were infected were sent to hospitals for treatment, while those not showing symptoms were quarantined on Marine Corps and Air Force bases. Translations in Motion was contracted to provide interpreting services to LEP people quarantined there. The contract was later expanded to provide services for exposed passengers from the Diamond Princess and Grand Princess cruise ships quarantined on other bases. Over the last couple of months, the company has sent a team of nine Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese and Lao interpreters to work long stints at the bases. The interpreters are considered an integral part of the medical team and receive the same treatment in terms of personal protection and training.

In the meantime, Elena Langdon — owner of Alcolá Language Services & Consulting and founding partner at String and Can — has seen an increase in requests for video remote interpreting (VRI). “Several of my on-site interpreting jobs were cancelled, but I’ve seen an uptick in interest for remote or distance interpreting,” she said. “I think that, as with everything related to this pandemic, if we remain calm and operate sensibly, remote interpreting can allow for quality language access and multilingual meetings to increase, despite social distancing measures.”

As a freelance translator, my work has never been more meaningful as I (virtually) work alongside thousands of other language cohorts across the world to ensure everyone has the same access to critical information, no matter their native language. This is not a business-as-usual situation for anyone, and perhaps it’s that one universal reality that unifies us all in the midst of social distancing, self-isolation and quarantines.

“What’s been remarkable to me is how kind everybody has been,” Lank said. “It’s nice to work with people who are in crisis mode, yet no one is lashing out. I worked from 5 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. yesterday and feel okay doing it. This is everybody’s emergency.”

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Molly Yurick is a Spanish-to-English translator and serves as the deputy chair of public relations for American Translators Association, which represents more than 10,000 translators and interpreters across 103 countries.


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Conversational User Experience: Language Learning with Duolingo

Language, Personalization and Design, Translation Technology

I’ve previously written for MultiLingual about the language learning app Duolingo. I recall Duolingo’s launch and remarking how it was yet another #haterzgonnahate moment for the language industry critics out there. They’ve been proven wrong again. Nothing new there with the blowhards. Just like with their Google Translate criticisms they don’t get it that the alternative is not a human professional translator charging users for money for top quality grammar, terms and style, but no language option at all.

I also wrote about how my own national language, Irish (Gaeilge), is doing so well on the platform and receiving such high-level recognition.

Personally speaking, Duolingo is an ideal way for me to “get my ear in” before I travel abroad somewhere. I’m constantly adding languages into my learning mix


Exploring Italian on Duolingo. I think I will wait until I get a bit more fluent before sharing my skills on LinkedIn, but I like it! Social is a key part of the Duolingo experience.

Chatting About User Experience

Duolingo takes advantage of voice-enabled devices of course, although it can be used without that feature. I mostly use Duolingo on my laptop and smart phone (language options in beta are not available on mobile), and have even tried it on Google Glass!

Duolingo’s got it all going on really from a UX perspective. It’s free, fun, global, local, social, all about mobility from the cloud, includes gamification, is powered by the crowd, packs voice interaction, and now bots too. A bot is ideal for language learning conversational interaction, of course (though the bot feature is not available in every Duolingo language option).


A Duolingo bot can be unlocked to practice your language skills “for real” after a certain level. 


Chatbots are an ideal way to engage with a languagelearning app, delivering a conversational UI for conversational solutions. Of course, text input and gestural interactions are also available.

The People Have Spoken

Duolingo is being used by so many people and for so many things! I know people who use it to learn French, German, Spanish, Italian, Vietnamese, Irish, Romanian, and more. This might be out of love of learning new languages, getting the hang of some phrases in advance of foreign travel, strengthening the kids’ school language learning, just wanting to converse with others in their own language on a more casual basis, or simply out of plain old curiosity.

For many, Duolingo is the “only game” in town.

This TED talk with Luis von Ahn about large-scale online collaboration will help you get your head around what Duolingo is about. But, honestly, the best way to experience Duolingo is to … start that conversation yourself Go for it!


Duolingo explains as you learn: Noun gender in Spanish is covered  as you use your own voice on a smartphone, for example.


Hey kids, you talkin’ to me? Italian lesson with voice input enabled.


More carrot than stick with the Irish lesson. There’s a change! Listen and then drag and drop the words to translate. Nice!


Activity stream showing my Duolingo progress.


Hey You! Your friendly Duo reminder on the smartphone!


Bring the Bitterballen. Learning with others can be fun too. Duolingo lets you try group learning as well as learning on your own.

Your Duolingo Conversation Is Here

If you’ve used Duolingo, I’d love to hear about the experience: the why, how and what you felt about it. The comments box is open for your conversation.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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Google Translate on Android: Mobile Translation Comes of Age

Language in the News, Translation Technology

Really taken by this little tidbit from the Android folks, released as part of the 10th billionth Android app download celebration, giving us insight into how those apps are used:

100 million words are translated every week in 200 different countries on Google Translate.

You cannot but be impressed. Again, the mobile platform is leading change. And of the top 10 download countries, the US is number four. The rest are in Asia and EMEA.

Google Translate conversation mode on Android. Czech shown. Author's own.

I wonder how much Google Translate is used in those countries and how often English is the target language rather than the source?

Worth considering for your mobile app development and localization plans.

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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Google Translate is Finished. Again.

Language in the News, Translation Technology

We’ve heard this before. This time it’s somewhat truer. Google Translate itself (http://translate.google.com/) isn’t finished, but the API allowing third-party developers to use Google Translate as a service is. Google Translate in its own right will continue.

Google has deprecated the API because of excessive abuse (presumably from people using it to manipulate search results through mass translation of web content). The reaction from developers has been pretty hostile (see the comments). The translation industry, on the other hand, has stayed smugly silent, save for a few posts about the API demise and how it might impact existing professional tools, impact on the language industry, and so on. How sad. Nobody really wins in this, I think.

Personally, I feel this move is a big loss to the world’s information-sharing efforts. Google Translate API is widely used by web and mobile app developers, and it is really playing a role in translating that explosion of community content that we hear about.

On top of all that, a bigger question remains: What developer–operating in the globalization space or otherwise–will trust using these (or indeed other) APIs in their development efforts again? Will existing uptake now have to back out Google Translate in favor of another API solution by end of the year?

The Google Translate service isn’t all that bad for the free translation of non-domain specific content and general use when your life didn’t depend on it, but your purchase or vacation might. My position was that Google Translate offered as a service directly, or through website and mobile apps, isn’t an alternative to the paid translation variant but the alternative to no translation at all. And that is what many will now get for a while: No translation at all.

I guess Bing Translator and other solutions will win out in the API space now. However, I am sure that we have not heard the last from Google in the automated information translation–as a service–space…though you may have to pay something for it…

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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Far Too Easy: Knocking Machine Translation

Translation Technology

The easiest job in the translation industry has to be the one disparaging machine translation (MT). As a former boss of mine would say when he saw such e-mails: “Those guys are not busy.”

A day doesn’t pass without some link being circulated my way, either on Twitter or e-mail, highlighting poor applications of machine translation. Some dismally poor translated output is shown (almost always the result of the use of a free online translation service) along with some subjective declaration about how using Google Translate, Bing Translator, and others, is dangerous to your brand’s reputation, will drive away your customers, and so on (translation: “I haven’t a clue about the potential or proper application of MT really, but I think my job is under threat or you must pay me to do it instead”).

Of course feeding text randomly into a free online MT engine will result in a less than perfect translation, at times by a very long shot indeed. Except, you can get equally dreadful results by giving poor quality information, with no context or glossary, to the wrong type of human translator too (and still pay for the privilege).

Such tiresome “MT be bad” examples have brought nothing new to the translation debate in two decades. And then, of course, there are times when these free online services do a very good job indeed. But those examples are rarely declared. Natch.

For those who do understand the potential and application of MT, they must counter all this stuff by the mass circulation of correct examples of MT output. Match every lazy, bad example with a better, applicable one. The role of information quality, of customization, and post-editing needs to be explained more. And, critically, the role of MT in alleviating information poverty too must be brought to the fore.

How many of the MT knockers out there are permanently offering translation services for free for high value, life-saving information in Asia or Africa?

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Ultan Ó Broin (@localization), is an independent UX consultant. With three decades of UX and L10n experience and outreach, he specializes in helping people ensure their global digital transformation makes sense culturally and also reflects how users behave locally.

Any views expressed are his own. Especially the ones you agree with.


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