Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Tower of Babel

Babel Fish is hilarious sometimes. I got this gem translated from a Dutch post:
"Therefore here a vaster diagram of Jeremy Hiebert comes."
Wouldn't that make a great new blog tagline for headspacej? It would be fun to see a diagram of myself, more vast or not. I've been noticing a lot more international traffic lately, including another person in Spain who translated my PLE diagram into a Catalan version and posted it. Has the web finally moved beyond its early English-only roots?

It's easy to make fun of the garbled stuff coming out of these online translation tools, but in the bigger picture, aren't they just so Star Trek? It's amazing that I can plug the URL of German or French posts into a page and be able to understand enough of the translations to get the basic ideas. It's still difficult to use the tools to participate in a conversation -- I haven't had the courage to paste translated text into a comment box on someone's non-English site -- but it seems likely that the tools will keep getting better.

Update: Christian Long does some digging into the idea of the web as universal translator...

4 comments:

Brad, Kelly and Zoe said...

Hey Jeremy, I used Babel Fish for the first time the other week to translate a Dutch relatives blog. It's just amazing that this sort of thing can be done now, despite the jumbled translation that tends to come out. At least it is coherent enough, usually, to make sense of. I agree that this may be the beginning of breaking down the communication barriers for those of use who are not so talented with foreign languages. Now all that needs to happen is some further refinement of the translating software!

Elke said...

Hi Jeremy,
Thanks for visiting my blog at Elgg.
I think that you will find that, when you leave a comment in English, most non-English bloggers will understand it.
Because from our point of view, it's not a wall, that divides our languages, it's a window. Reading English is easy, expressing yourself in a foreign language isn't.

Jeremy said...

Isn't that just so cool? Babel Fish has been around forever, but I think blogs may create a wave of people who have a new need to use it to connect to friends and colleagues.

I don't think I've ever got a comment from an entire family before!

Jeremy said...

That's a great point Elke, and a warm invitation!