Hands on with Twitter Translate

At Twitter, they’ve apparently gone public with the fact that they’re opening up their translation system to the general public. The details are sparse other than to show that they’re creating versions for German, French, Spanish, and Italian at the moment which will augment the English and Japanese versions that are already there.

Just stepping in to French is going to go a long way towards opening up Twitter to more Africans, where it is also quite popular with those who use it. But one thing that should be noted if you click on their signup link is that in the form for language, there is already the option to translate Twitter in to Swahili. Very interesting and it goes to show that Twitter is most likely betting on that being a key language or they wouldn’t have bothered to put the option in until people asked for it.

But there aren’t many details beyond this. Thankfully, I was given a chance to see a demo of what they’ve got going last week, which I’m sure a great many other people are going to see shortly. It’s an interesting system in that it presents the user with a phrase that they then need to translate. Text is nice and plain, although currently there is no mention where that text it used. The user translates that and apparently a lot like Facebook, translations will be voted upon and those that are the most accepted or reliable versions will get promoted in to actual usage. Overall, it very much sticks to Twitter’s simple design mentality.

I can see that it has a long way to go towards refinement, but at the same time, I can understand why they’re releasing it to a wider audience in that it looks like it’s time to let it out in the wild and see where the pieces fall. Of course, given the immediate nature of Twitter, I’m rather curious to see if “Translate Wars” will erupt where people keep trying to trump each other or get in to a bitch fight on Twitter over certain phrases (things like color vs. colour come to mind immediately) although languages where this could be a real problem (namely US vs. Original English and New World vs. Original Spanish) are not currently options for people to sign up to translate.

It’s probably going to get Twitter a lot of press and rightly so as this push by companies to stretch in to multiple languages is rather a noteworthy advance and they’re including Africa from the start as Afrikaans is in there as well as Swahili.