It’s Alive…. Google launches multilingual search

Google has finally launched their new translation tool I blogged about here (and predicted here).

You’ll find it buried of the “More>>” link next to their search box and then click on “Translate” in the right hand column. Finally, click on the search tab on that page.

Or you could just click here.

For some reason clicking on “Language Tools” on the Google home page doesn’t take you there (at least not here in Canada) – but after some previous experiences with Google I can’t say I’m surprised.

All in all, it’s kind of neat but still not a final solution. From what I’ve read they really expect this to be used by non-English speakers to access more of the English web.

It would have been nice if they could have at least given you the ability to get results in English as well as one other language – Instead you have to switch into this whole other interface just to search in one language and get results back in one other language.

Not quite a vision realized, but a good start nonetheless.

Do you publish a Language / Translation / Localization related blog?

I mentioned the idea as a bit of a side note in my last post but I thought it would be good the break the notion out as a separate post. I’d like to put together a list/directory of blogs that focus on the language space – I’m always finding new ones and as I mentioned I think it is a great idea to try and make the industry as a whole a bit more visible to people outside of it.

If you write (or heck, just know of) a blog post that generally focuses on:

  • Language
  • Translation
  • Localization
  • Globalization
  • etc.

Please leave a comment here with the URL, Blog Name and Language(s) it is written in and whether it is a corporate or personal blog. If you also want to include a sentence that summarizes what your blog is about that would be good to.

In a couple of weeks I’ll put all the links I get up in an additional listing post which I’ll continue to add to over time.

If you know of someone who might want to be included please pass them the link to this post.

– Ryan

If you know of someone who’d want to be listed please pass along the link to this post so they can add themselves!

Localizing Pop Music: a catchy way to drum up sales?

I was driving in the car with my wife yesterday when Avril Lavigne’s new single “Girlfriend” came on the radio – my wife mentioned hearing that Avril had actually recorded the song in seven languages. Sure enough a quick Google search turned up a couple articles including this one:

Aside from English, the chorus to Girlfriend has been recorded in Mandarin and Japanese for her massive Asian fanbase, as well as Spanish, French, German, Italian and Portuguese.

It’s an interesting concept – the notion of tweaking a song for different audiences isn’t necessarily new but I can’t think of something exactly like this done before. Shania Twain, for example, owes much of her success to the careful adjustment of her singles depending on the type of radio station it would be playing on – While the lyrics were the same the accompanying music would be given a country or pop twist to make it more in line with the nature of the station. Pop stars like Christina Aguilera and Shakira have also recorded languages in other languages but generally they have been different albums and the artist has had some connection to whatever language/culture the album they were aimed at. In this case though Avril doesn’t even speak a second language, let alone seven!

It’s an interesting idea to only change the chorus as well – at the end of the day the key to pop music is a catchy hook/chorus, generally the rest of the lyrics are just there to fill the gaps between chorus’. It’s a very commercial co-opting of the notion that Mandela expressed with respect to speaking to a man’s head versus speaking to a man’s heart. In this case they’ve perfectly targeted a catchy pop verse right at the emotional hearts of Teeny-boppers across much of the planet.

That said, I also thought this little tidbit was an interesting example of how localization still isn’t something fixed by just switching the words though:

“We tried Hindi twice but the diction and the meter of how you sing Hindi versus the western rhythms just didn’t match and we just couldn’t pull it off,” McBride, also the CEO of Nettwerk Music Group, said in an interview on Thursday.

Thanks to YouTube I’ve been able to track down all of the various versions:



Found in, uh, Translation

Steven Levitt, co-author of Freakonomics, put up an interesting post over on the Freakonomics blog a little earlier this evening about a copy of the book he just received which had just been translated into Serbian and released:

It seems that whoever performed the translation (perhaps localization is the better term after reading the post) also took the liberty of translating the authors’ names for them:

The second thing I noticed is that it was written by Stiven D. Levit and Stiven Dz. Dabner. Isn’t it strange to change the names of the authors? I can see if you are using a different alphabet you might not have a choice, but would it be normal to take the second “t” off my last name, or to turn “Dubner” into “Dabner?”

One of the chapters in the book was focused entirely on popular names in the US and amusingly they were also changed. A commenter on the post suggests:

It’s common in Eastern Europe to print foreign names using their prounciation. Hence I grew up learning about Waszyngton located in Wirginia named after Jerzy Waszyngton.

The blog in general is quite good but be sure to give this post a quick read at the very least.

To the language professionals out there I ask – what is the “rule” around this?

Google Docs & Spreadsheets – Now in 14 Languages

Just noticed a “New Features” link on my Google Docs & Spreadsheets dashboard this morning.

Top of the list?

Access Google Docs & Spreadsheets in 14 languages
Now many of our friends around the world may access Google Docs & Spreadsheets in their native languages. We now support: Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Dutch, English (UK), English (US), French, German, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Russian, Spanish and Turkish. In addition, if you’re writing in a language that isn’t listed here, we have an additional 16 languages supported in our spell check to make collaborating around the world easy, simple and fun! Learn more

A little further down the page is:

Document spellcheck in 30+ languages
The document spellchecker is now improved and turbo-charged with more than 30 languages. Click on the drop-down arrow next to the highlighted “Check Spelling” link in the lower right corner of your documents to pick your preferred language from the list, then click on the link to check the spelling.

I’m a big fan of the Docs & Spreadsheets app and am glad to see it’s global reach is expanding a little further… So, anyone want to start a pool on how long it is until they roll-out real-time translation so authors who write in two different languages can work on the same doc at the same time? ;)