Photo: Twitter's Translation Center
If the recent events in Egypt have taught us anything, it is that social media has made it possible to share local information throughout the world in seconds. Even the U.S. government took the opportunity to support the protestors via Twitter. Doing so highlighted the issue of language barriers. Twitter and other social media sites have already begun working on providing translations in more languages, and they’re asking their users to help.
On its blog, Twitter stated it was looking to make its site “more easily accessible by people around the world” with the creation of the Twitter Translation Center. This is where their users come in. The Translation Center allows the site to “crowdsource translations from users in order to more quickly launch Twitter in additional languages.”
Currently, the site is available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish, but the need for additional languages was realized most recently as the State Department embraced the Twitter age and reached out to the Egyptians with both Arabic and Persian-language feeds.
Unfortunately, the State Department’s Persian-language feed was easier to read for Middle Easterners than that of the current Twitter translations. The government’s feed is written in colloquial Persian, but Twitter’s Arabic translation uses Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) a more formal (and pretentious-sounding) dialect, that Fast Company writer, Neal Ungerleider said is “the rough Middle Eastern equivalent of posting Twitter messages in Shakespearean English.”
The Twitter blog adds:
The new Translation Center allows any Twitter user to sign up, choose a language and begin translating immediately. Translators can now help localize twitter.com, mobile.twitter.com, Twitter for iPhone and iPad, Twitter for Android, Twitter Help and the Twitter Business Center. We also improved the Center’s search functionality, added phrase tagging, created special translator profiles, enabled commenting on phrases and much more.
At this time, we have opened up the Translation Center to users who speak French, Indonesian, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. If you speak any of these languages, you can start helping us translate! Head over to twitter.com/translate and follow @translator for the latest updates.
As protests and potential revolutions continue around the world, Twitter and the rest of the cyberworld are rushing to adapt, and are tapping the collective knowledge of their users to do it.