So Long, and Thanks for All the Babelfish

Loose notes from SXSW 2011 session: So Long, and Thanks for All the Babelfish (partial)

Will 2011 be the year of the Universal Translator? As this science fiction dream teeters over the horizon, what can and should we do now to prepare for a time when the translation robot, not the search engine, becomes the single most important audience for your site? Will SEO give way to TEO? Does language need its own subtext markup? And when on Earth is Microsoft Word going to replace its ‘Bold’ button with a ‘Strong’ one? Lay aside your Google Goggles and iLingual apps (just for 60 minutes or so), and enjoy a session that’s packed full of accessible translation theory, insight into the working processes of web copywriters, and more than the occasional riff on Douglas Adams.

Tim Holden, Digital Copywriter, Iris

Social media is a huge driver of translation services. – real-time social translation – machines plus humans

Walter Benjamin: The Age of Mechanical Reproduction – discusses evolution of a piece of art. Considers the various reproductions of it. The aura gets tarnished and washed away over time, until eventually it’s reproduced on a postage stamp and all of its value is stamped on top. But Benjamin never considered that translation and crowdsourcing would …

Google is throwing a ton of money at translation, but aren’t able to get it quite right.

Holden’s worry is that Google isn’t really a search company, but an advertising company.

Is 2011 the year that Google’s algorithms are finally compromised by dark hat SEO tactics?

It’s fine to let the algorithms play by themselves, but there still has to be at least one human person behind the scenes keeping an eye on things, making them better.

Wordlens: Amazing iPhone app that translates the real world in real time. Other apps do similar – see ilingual on youtube. If something is functional but a bit rubbish now, in five years it’ll be amazing.

As you use Google translator, it gets to know you and your needs – it slowly gets better.

Think WordLens is cool? It is, but check out iLingual – realtime voice translation including lip shapes. Wow!

See also: Google Translator Toolkit

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