Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Difference Goes Multilingual

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I received an email this weekend from Regina Nabais asking if I would be interested in participating in the "Blog Translation Carnival." The students in my school collectively speak over 50 different languages so I'm very interested in increasing accessability to the students work in their parents native tongues. Here is an excerpt from the email:

I made a suggestion for a session on bilingual blogging at BlogHer in July, which, within a week has sparked off a blog translation carnival from Liz Henry and aspirations for getting Google sponsorship for a one day workshop somewhere round San Jose, California with an IRC going in several languages!

Anyway the blog carnival sounds interesting and this is how to join in, if you want to translate:

1. On the day of the Carnival (28th Fev, feriado por acaso) you translate one post by another blogger, and post it on your own blog with a link to the original.

2. Email Liz Henry with the info. who will compile one big post on the day of the Carnival with links to all the participants.

3. You can translate any blog entry that was posted in the month of February 2006. It can be your own blog entry, if you like.

The info. Liz needs is:
your name
name of your blog
your blog URL
post title in target language

name of blog you're translating
name of person you're translating
that URL
the post title in the source language

Liz also points out:
"You should get permission from the person you're translating to post your translation of their work. I would also suggest that you might introduce your translation for the target-language audience, and provide some context if you can."

Well, this sparked a memory of something I read over at Leigh Blackall's blog about translating all his blog posts into several different languages with the click of a single button. More than that, the translated pages are are indexable and google searchable so people can find your stuff in their native languages. When you consider that over 65% of web users speak a language other than English you begin to appreciate the power of this functionality.

I hunted through Leigh's blog all the way back to June of 2005 to find the post where he explains how he finally made it work. You can do this yourself too. It's as easy as "copy and paste." You do have to fiddle around with the placement of the code in your template by "previewing" your edits until you have it placed right where you want it. The original graphics for the various languages were larger than I wanted; I changed them to height="12" and width="18".

I've played around with the translations as well and some of them translate the entire post, including comments, others leave some bits untranslated. If you click on the white arrow it will continue the translation.

Since I don't speak many of the languages A Difference is now available in I was wondering if any speakers of these languages might drop me a note to let me know how good the translations are. I'm particularly interested in the quality of the Portugese, Korean, Chinese, Italian and Spanish translations. Click on the icons below this post to translate it into:

French, German, Italian, Portugese, Spanish, Japanese, Korean or Chinese (Simplified).

If these translation tools work well then I'll add this functionality to all my classroom blogs and hopefully give more parents greater insight into what their children are learning. Maybe it will even encourage them to play more of an active role on the blogs. ;-)

UPDATE
The community I work in has a large Filipino population. Thanks to a little encouragement from Chris Harbeck I figured out how to add an English to Tagalog translation. All the little arrows that pop up offer alternative translations for each word. The last flag on the right is from the Phillipines. Thanks for the push Chris!

UPDATE 2 (Feb. 25, 2006)
I've received some feedback regarding the quality of these translation tools. The Chinese is surprisingly good. The French and Portuguese have some awkward grammar but can be understood. The Tagalog (te-gah-log) is unintelligible so I've removed it. Apparently the words are Tagalog, but the grammar and word choice conspire to make the translation nonsensical. I've replaced the Tagalog tool with Dutch as I've noticed I've been getting hits from the Netherlands. Please email me or leave me a comment here and let me know how good the Dutch and other tools are. Thanks.

11 comments:

Regina Nabais said...
20/2/06 06:28  

Thank you ever so much Darren,

I got so very happy that you accept to join Beverly’s brilliant initiative, and also because you gave me access to that miraculous translation tool. On next February, 28th, according with your permission, I will try to translate (by myself) one of yours February‘s posts, and we can compare the results of the Translator tools.

I hope to "see" you around on that Beverly’s Carnival great experience.

Mr. H said...
20/2/06 20:30  

This is great stuff. I already have students asking me if they can translate their blogs for thier parents when it is student led conference time.

Talking about taking the students blog to the next level.

Chris

Amerloc said...
21/2/06 10:36  

LOL-after checking the French translation, it took me a couple clicks to get back to where I could comment in my native English. I absolutely love the tool, Darren. Talk about increased accessability!

I expected the translation to be a little rough in places, as I've found to be the case with every other automatic translation tool I've looked at, and it was. Prepositions seem to be particularily problematic, as do demonstrative pronouns. Add in a couple of words that weren't translated at all, and whiners would find plenty to indulge themselves.

That said, as Regina's comment demonstrates, the meaning survives the translation very nicely. Again, what a wonderful tool!

Regina Nabais said...
21/2/06 14:45  

Hi, Amerloc, at the beginning everything is a little strange, and I agree that there are tool translations that make us really laugh, you see...
Yesterday, in my blog I posted something called “rouxinois and sabiás” those are the local names, respectively, Portuguese (Portugal) and Portuguese (Brasil) for the same wild bird – they represent, for me, the confusion within the same language – only imagine the differences in English (UK, Australi, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, New New Guinea, and so on..).
What is important, for us all, is keep on trying to understand each other ideas and cultures, and improve our personal knowledge, about other people and thei feelings. Don’t you think?
Would you like to translate this comment, in Portuguese, with the tool?
Then, I will try to correct the basic structure of the translation – I mentioned basic, because I’m not a PORTUGUESE Teacher, I’m only a Portuguese Person, who teaches other subjects – Food engineering and Environmental Engineering - so perhaps, there are plenty of other people would write it even more correct and beautifull.
Is it a deal? Count on you!

Amerloc said...
22/2/06 12:24  

OK, Regina. This is too much fun.

I pasted your comment (in English) into WorldLingo's text translator and requested translation to Portugese (Brazilian). This is what it gave me:

Hi, Amerloc, no come�o tudo � um pouco estranho, e eu concordo que h� as tradu��es da ferramenta que nos fazem realmente o riso, voc� v�...
Ontem, em meu blog eu afixei algo chamado?rouxinois e sabi?s? aqueles s�o os nomes locais, respectivamente, Portuguese (Portugal) e portugu�s (Brasil) para o mesmo p�ssaro selvagem? representam, para mim, a confus�o dentro da mesma l�ngua? imagine somente as diferen�as em ingl�s (Reino Unido, Australi, Canad�, Nova Zel�ndia, �frica do Sul, Nova Guin� Nova, e assim sobre.).
O que � importante, para n�s todos, is keep on trying to understand each other ideas and cultures, and improve our personal knowledge, sobre outros sentimentos dos povos e do thei. Don?t que voc� pensa?
voc� gosta de traduzir este coment�rio, no portugu�s, com a ferramenta?
Ent�o, Eu tentarei corrigir a estrutura b�sica da tradu��o? Eu mencionei b�sico, porque I?m n�o um professor PORTUGUESE, I?m somente uma pessoa portuguese, quem ensina outros assuntos? Engenharia do alimento e engenharia ambiental - assim talvez, h� uma abund�ncia dos povos escreveria a mesmo mais correta e o beautifull.
� um neg�cio? Contagem em voc�

Now, being only bi-lingual, and honestly only semi-fluent in French anymore at that, I pretty much understand only the parts that didn't get translated at all. Taking it a step further, though, I asked WorldLingo to translate it back into English. The result:

Hi, Amerloc, in come?o everything? a little strange, e I agree that h? tradu??es of the tool that in them really makes the laugh, voc? v...
Yesterday, on mine blog I affixed something called?rouxinois and sabi?s? those s?o the local names, respectively, Portuguese (Portugal) and portugu?s (Brazil) for p?ssaro the same wild? they represent, for me, confus?o inside of same l?ngua? Joined Kingdom only imagines diferen?as in ingl?s (, Australi, Canad, New Zel?ndia, ?frica of the South, New Guin? New, e thus on.).
What? important, for n?s all, is keep on trying you understand each to other ideas and cultures, and improve our personal knowledge, sobre outros sentimentos dos povos e do thei. Don?t that voc? it thinks?
voc? it likes to translate this coment?rio, in portugu?s, with the tool?
Ent?o, I will try to correct the b?sica structure of tradu??o? I mentioned b?sico, because I?m n?o a professor PORTUGUESE, I?m only a person portuguese, who teaches other subjects? Engineering of the food and ambient engineering - thus perhaps, h? a abund?ncia of the peoples would write same more correct and beautifull.
a neg?cio? Counting in voc?

Language itself is such a subtle tool, and translation tools are not yet subtle: along with the other things I mentioned earlier, they struggle with idiom and with nuance. Thus, we're using a rather large hammer here on a fairly delicate object. A couple more blows and it will be unrecognizable to either of us.

That said, I'm still going to get the code pasted into my blog, because I see the beauty of increased access. Besides, the fact that we are each able to understand the other does exactly those things you mention: it increases our understanding and knowledge of other peoples and cultures.

Regina Nabais said...
22/2/06 12:45  

Hi, Armeloc, I’m deeply grateful for all your troubles. I could understand your point; in fact, there are a few miles to go, on those automatic translation tools.
Meanwhile, I noticed one thing – In Portuguese we use many different accents – you know, perhaps, is that your keyboard/software isn’t prepared for those things, used in many countries, like these: ~, ^, `and ´.
Another serious problem was - I did several mistakes in the original text – as I think you recognize (both in words and grammatical point of views) because I, usually, write at high speed, and haven’t enough time to review the major part of my internet texts. Sorry for this.
A last, but not a least, great problem - the automatic translator tools aren’t yet miraculous, lets hope it can be improved, in short term.

Thanks for trying.
We see each other around the WEB.

Liz said...
22/2/06 13:22  

Hello! I'm enjoying your thoughts on blogging in the classroom very much. I've been blogging my classes and school projects, and think it has huge potential especially if approached collaboratively as it sounds like you and your students are doing.

I'm excited about the Carnival of Blog Translation, and I wonder if you would want to host it in a future incarnation?

We'll see how this one goes!

- Liz Henry
lizzard@bookmaniac.net
http://liz-henry.blogspot.com
http://blogher.org/topic/world/latin-america-caribbean

K E said...
23/2/06 00:32  

It's a great idea for getting the gist of meaning. I agree with Regina and Amerloc - the French and Spanish are OK, but not erudite. I am always startled by a literal translation, which causes us all to reflect on the meanings of words in general i.e., "copie et la pâte." is literally "a copie and paste (as in pasta or pie dough)", instead of "copier-coller" - "to make a copy and to stick with glue or paste".
But the instantaneousness of it is brilliant-no more hunting up a translation page.
You might want to remind users of the translation pages to take them “with a grain of salt” – you are more learned than your translated page would lead us to believe. :-)

Amerloc said...
23/2/06 18:50  

Darren and Regina,

You are each a saint for putting up with both my tail-wagging enthusiasm and my insistence that the tools are not perfect.

Regina, you deserve to know that my keyboard does not always reflect the crazed meanderings of a mixed-breed dog: sometimes, an actual human sits in this same chair and taps out his own half-crazed nonsense. He's over at Alpha Shrugged.

We are both tremendously excited about using the tool(s) discussed in this post, and look forward to seeing them proliferate throughout the blogosphere, because as they do, they will only get better.

Thank you both. Again, and again, and always.

(Can you tell I'm excited about this?? Huh? Can ya?)

Regina Nabais said...
25/2/06 10:03  

Hi every one!

Sorry not coming to Darren’s blog, now for quite a while.
I’m amid battles of my other lives.
I’m glad that you are enthusiastic on translation matters.
Perhaps, this all thing of Beverly’s idea (http://btrayner.blogspot.com/) on collaborative work in several languages may turn into a, really, first world wide approach to exchange culture, thoughts and feelings.
I was passing trough to choose a Darren’s post to translate it in Portuguese.
What would be your favorite post that he has written so far?

I will be back soon!

PS – In my blog I already dedicated my “Itsy bitsy” post to Armeloc.

Darren said...
25/2/06 11:04  

I've got to admit ... I'm loving being a fly on the wall to this conversation happening in the comments on this post. ;-)

I'll be back later with more and an update to the post -- I'm getting feedback about how good these translation tools are.

Cheers!

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