A Django site.
March 22, 2010
» BookCrossing and Your Language Depend on YOU!

The latest issue of BookCrossing News includes a call for volunteers to form teams to translate the forthcoming BookCrossing 2.0 interface. The call doesn’t mention any specific languages, and they are only looking for teams of up to three people – so will we see BookCrossing in Welsh, we’ll have to wait and see.

Read on if you are interested in the call…

“BookCrossing and Your Language Depend on YOU!

Launch of the new BookCrossing 2.0 website approaches. It promises many new and exciting features, but perhaps the most eagerly anticipated change will be the ability to view BookCrossing in languages other than English. Call it localization, internationalization or even I18n, it all comes down to you being able to read www.bookcrossing.com in your language of choice. To make this happen, we need your help. Some professional translators will be used, but it often takes a member of the community to understand BookCrossing jargon and how the site operates. That’s where you come in.

If you love BookCrossing, have some time to translate English text into your language, and want to help get wording and meaning just right, please consider lending your language skills to the site. Email laura@bookcrossing.com with the following:

• Name • Screen name • Primary Language • Credentials • Time Commitment • Willingness to work with deadlines (quick turnaround time within 4-5 days of assignment)

Language-based teams of up to 3 people will be formed before the end of March, so send in your volunteer information as soon as possible! Please believe that this is a very worthy project. Once it’s completed, you’ll take well-deserved pride in having been part of its creation, and the international membership will be indebted to all of you. So please sign up — BookCrossing and your language need you!”

March 3, 2009
» Perfect Translation and Website Localization Services

I get a depressingly large amount of spam email, which our spam filter does a pretty good job of identifying and tagging so that I can shift it off to a folder for a quick review before deleting. It’s all the usual kind of stuff – warning messages from banks, promises of enlargement, shady offers to transfer millions of dollars to my account and so on.

However, in amongst all the chaff I just found this single grain of wheat, which I feel I have to share:

Subject: Perfect Translation and Website Localization Services

Dear Sirs/Madamp

We are a porofessional translation and cultural solution company with over 10 years of experience in the market.


and so it goes on.

So much joy from one small email.

February 27, 2009
» Office Online in Catalan

Last week Office Online launched a Catalan portal page on the Office Online Spain site for Catalan users of MS Office.

This is apparently the first time that they have done this for a regional language. There are a number of different resources, including help articles and templates. They also link to other resources for Catalan speakers and encourage them to submit templates themselves.

A reliable source informs me that we can expect something similar for Welsh next year. Something to look forward to.

As a matter of interest, what sorts of resources would Welsh speakers like to see? Are you ever going to read help articles in Welsh, or do you have more pressing needs?

(Yes, I know, I have been too busy doing stuff to have time to talk about the stuff I have been doing!)

November 20, 2008
» 'Historic' use of Welsh in EU

Normally I’d consider a report about the use of Welsh in the EU to be of only passing interest, without much direct relevance to technology. However Mark’s comments on my post about Google Reader flag up the importance of having a large corpus of parallel texts to enable machine translation. Perhaps this would be a less obvious, but more tangible benefit of any wider use of Welsh within the EU in the future.

November 14, 2008
» Is Google Reader Truly World-Wide?

There is an interesting snippet on the Google Reader Blog entitled Is Your Web Truly World-Wide?. The title is rather misleading however, it actually refers to a new feature in Google Reader whereby you can have feeds translated into your language. Or at least you can if your language is one of the chosen few and you are happy to put up with the vagaries of machine translation.

I do get the feeling that opening up to multiple languages is rather the flavour of the moment, which is no bad thing and long overdue in my opinion. My concern is that this will only extend as far as the usual suspects, reinforcing their position and weakening the lesser used languages – again.

October 3, 2008
» Crowdsourcing translation

Finally I have discovered the correct (hip?) term for describing these community of users based translation efforts – crowdsourced translation.

This is the sort of thing we have seen recently used in the localisation of Facebook. An interesting development of this is the approach being taken by the social networking site Hi5. Hi5 was built to the OpenSocial specification which is i18n ready. In addition to crowdsourcing translations for Hi5 itself, they are extending it to include applications created by developers.

There is a nice blog entry and an earlier blog entry and podcast about this on mashable (thanks to Mike for the pointer). The Translation Service for OpenSocial Applications on hi5 and Developer Guidelines for Application Translation provide an interesting overview of the process.

Crowdsourcing translations would appear to have much to recommend it – it’s cheap and it might be a useful way of judging whether there is a market for your software in a given language. It may also be a good way of involving the language community and getting “buy-in”. On the down-side I guess they may be concerns about quality (depending of the size of your crowd), it may be slower than commercial translation and the ability to be localised needs to be built into the software from the start. Are there any drawbacks apart from these – if not it looks like a win-win solution to me.

September 11, 2008
» Rapunga Google

One of the weaknesses I recognize in my own research (and that of others) is that I often find myself studying the artifacts of online communities rather than learning anything about the people who created and make up these communities. I have described this as taking an “Archaeological” approach rather than an “Anthropological” approach. By adopting a more anthropological approach perhaps we can stop producing interesting statistics and start to understand peoples language behavior and how technological artifacts affect this behavior.

TangataWhenua.com has a nice feature article giving some of the back story to the Google Maori project. It doesn’t really tell us anything about the technical or linguistic issues faced, but paints a nice picture of some of the people and processes (and problems!) involved.

July 24, 2008
» Te Wiki o te Reo Maori

Well it appears to be an interesting time for te reo Māori and the internet with the launch of Google Aotearoa as reported in BizReport and excitement around the possibility of reo Māori internet domain names according to a press release from the New Zealand Māori Internet Society reported in Scoop.

However as I seem to habitually see the glass as (less than) half full…

...I suspect that Google Aotearoa is just a skin and this concerns me. Now I know there are many people (and people’s whose opinions I respect greatly) who maintain that anything is better than nothing as far as minority language provision goes. With some reservations about quality, I generally agree with this position.

BUT, I can’t help feeling that search engines are different, and that a minority language skin over an English language search engine is fundamentally misleading minority language speaking users. To my mind (and perhaps I am wrong) if a naive user finds a Google skin in their language, it is natural for them to assume that Google will be searching in that language – making plurals, stemming, mutating and so on. OK the more sophisticated user may realise that Google only searches in some languages, but I suspect that the average user won’t. Given that Google may also be a naive users main (or only) way of searching for information on the internet, the fact that the results returned may only be a subset of the results that would have been returned if the search algorithm had been tailored to their language, may be significant. They may miss important relevant results, they may perceive the presence of their language on the internet as being smaller and perhaps less useful than it really is. This may actually reduce the status and use of the language, rather than enhance it.

If google.co.uk was actually using French language search algorithms, I would want to know about it. Perhaps users of Google’s language skins would also like to know.

July 1, 2008
» Facebook Apps in Welsh

According to a post on allfacebook, Facebook applications will soon allow creators the option of tagging them by language.

I have seen several applications with a Welsh theme (e.g. ones to send Welsh things to your friends – leek anyone?), but none in the Welsh language. As I detest almost all Facebook applications, this is perhaps not surprising – are there any/many?

In other strange Facebook news, I just received my first Welsh-language friend request. What makes it strange is not that it is in Welsh, or that I have no idea who the person is (or that anyone would want to be my friend – thanks!) but that it is a request to a dummy account that I use only for research purposes. It contains no “personal” data at all, no picture, and an obviously silly name (a character from a Welsh childrens story). Are people really that desperate for friends – or did some cruel parent really name their child after that character?

Of course it is quite exciting to see the invitation in Welsh, strange or otherwise.

Thanks to Mike for the applications story.

June 11, 2008
» Welsh language "digitally challenged"

There is a nice article on the Eurolang news service highlighting a number of digital devices now available in minority languages – Out now! The first Irish language mobile phone, TomToms in Basque and iPhones in Catalan.

One of the things which caught my eye was the use of the phrase “digitally challenged languages”, which included the Welsh language.

I am not entirely sure I like the phrase “digitally challenged” as it has echoes of jokingly referring to short people as “vertically challenged”, but the concept is certainly a useful alternative to “digitally excluded”.

The stories themselves illustrate a nice range of different approaches towards minority languages by technology manufacturers.

Samsung have launched a high end mobile phone featuring an Irish language interface and T9. They see this as a important route into the mobile phone market in Ireland.

Apple by contrast have refused to make their iPhone available in Catalan, so language activists have developed their own interface software which turns the menus into Catalan and is available pre-installed on the iPhone.

The Basque TomTom is also the product of volunteer effort, though it isn’t clear whether the manufacturers in any way supported or resisted the development.

The relationship between market forces and minority language provision continues to be a complex and problematic one.