As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Amikumu, Duolingo and other apps that teach or help to practice languages. I’m also a big fan of languages in general, and of apps that translate content, maybe because I see them as prototypes for C3PO–a Star Wars droid fluent in millions of forms of communication. (Couldn’t avoid the SW reference, as the trailer for the final Star Wars film went live yesterday and the internet is abuzz…)
I recently discovered Bablic, a resource for web designers who want to have their content translated into multiple languages. Their logo is Localization Simplified–which reminded me of Amikumu’s ability to connect people to others nearby who want to practice a similar language, except that here the process of communication is robotized, and takes place online. This trend is one of the reasons why many are skeptical about the international auxiliary language Esperanto, as they believe machines will make the need for it obsolete.
So basically Bablic offers the service of professionally translating anyone’s website, and offers both machine and personal translation. Their assistance with localization of content can help anyone who builds a website anywhere, and in any language, soon become relevant globally. Localization also helps with SEO–search engine optimization–as Google and other search engines tend to favor locally relevant content when people search for things online. This means that a website that has been translated and made locally relevant will gain priority in search engines and appear higher up in a search. Since people today have an increasingly shorter attention span, and since there is such information overload, this can make a huge difference to a business.
The Bablic homepage allows one to enter a random website to test its service and see how accurately it translates. I did this with my page, societyofepicurus.com. I had it machine-translated into Spanish, and found that the site was readable, with negligible errors (like the exclusion of ¡ at the beginning of an exclamation, which is necessary in Spanish).
In the past when I’ve offered translation work, I’ve used Google Translate to save time, and then edited the badly translated content from there to make it understandable. And so I was naturally interested in comparing how Bablic would do against Google Translate, and found that Bablic is much more professional for many reasons.
For instance, when you copy and paste the translated content from Google Translate into a blog or website, you’re also carrying over GT’s formatting baggage, which can take a long time to edit out. That does not happen with Bablic, which offers a visual interface that is instantly embedded into our website and is much more user-friendly than GT. If personal translation assistance is needed, it’s only one click away. It also allows the webmaster to edit out errors, as sometimes words in one language may have two or three possible, contextual translations in another language. One may also want to edit the content for the purposes of style, or to make sure that words that turn out to be too long (which happens with German, Russian, and other languages) can be shortened to fit the screen.
With the constant advances we see in artificial intelligence technology, machine translation is likely to only get more sophisticated, to continue evolving–until we get C3PO-type of polyglot intelligence–and services like Bablic will see growth in the coming decades, particularly as machines continue to learn on their own and to get feedback from users on how best to express ideas. I can see this technology leaving the confines of the web and being embedded into robotics, cell phones, international business, and maybe even transportation services, within the next few decades as the world continues to shrink.
How much can we afford to forget, if we train machines to remember?