jump to navigation

Impact of Online Translation 4 May 2010

Posted by pamkahl in Reflection, Tools & Tech, Trends.
Tags: , ,

Not sure how many people caught the NPRs interview with Ethan Zuckerman last week on Google Translate.  The piece highlighted the growth in non-English online content and concerns regarding a “fractured” web.  For example, according to Internet World Stats Arabic users on the Internet have increased by more than 2,000% over the last decade.   Google Translate is allowing more people to leverage content in different languages in ways that were previously impossible.

As I was listening to the story I thought about how cool it would be to see a string of different languages appear in comments to news stories and through simple online translate be able to understand those varied perspectives.  And in fact, while evaluating the website OurWorld 2.0 for today’s assignment I saw evidence of this.

I found Google Translate to be an amazing tool while doing research last Fall on Mali’s school system.  As a French speaking country, few government documents were available in English (and those always seemed to be the least useful)  But within seconds of downloading the reports from Mali’s Ministry of Education I was able to have a roughly translated version that enabled me to get the gist of the information I was looking for.

So what, if any are the implications for web design?  What happens when online translation goes beyond documents, blogs and comments?   What if we could choose to access any website in any language of choice?  What are the implications for bridging cultural divides?

When I went to NPR.org tonight to find the story, two negative comments made me stop to think.  One comment from a professional translator voiced concern that online translation would undermine the profession and the appreciation for high quality/contextual translation skills.  He also made the point that overly simplification of translation undermines integrity of language.  Another comment included a quote from Douglas Adams – from Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy – “Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation”.

I don’t see Google Translate being the silver bullet to bridging cultural divides.  Nor is it likely to be a catalyst for the apocalypse.  But I am curious about how online translation could change the dynamics of the web.



No comments yet — be the first.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: