|Sky’s blog in Japanese|
It turns out that it’s easy enough these days to have a blog “automatically” translated into a reasonable number of languages. I use WordPress software to support my blog, and there’s some real choice in terms of how to get your site translated.
The plug-in that fits my needs best was initially a bit rough around the edges — it didn’t work at all at first — but I tuned it over the course of a few hours, including some PHP finagling, and it works quite well now. It’s the Google-Translate plug-in by John Pozadzies. (I’ve sent a note to John with some suggested “fixes.”) The little flags in the banner at the top of this page can be clicked if you’d like to see how it works. If you only read English, make sure you come back here when you’re done experimenting!
But I also like the N2H (Nothing2Hide) plug-in and have it on my site, and I’ll say more about that later on.
Here’s why I feature John’s plug-in at the top of my site — well, really there’s only one reason — I want it to be clear to readers that they’re reading an automated translation. Otherwise they may think that I only know how to write truly terrible French (and Chinese, and so forth). John’s plug-in opens a separate Google window that contains a header indicating that the site is being “automatically” (by software) translated. And that’s the deciding factor! The reader then clicks around the web site, staying within a Google-branded “windowframe” — all the time understanding that he/she’s reading a machine translation.
In addition, it’s a minimalist’s plug-in. It didn’t require further tweaking of my WordPress site and I didn’t have to turn on WordPress URL-rewriting rules (which had not been working for me anyway).
But I also implemented the Nothing2Hide Global Translator plug-in. And I don’t want to short-change them here, because it’s a really sophisticated piece of work. It took considerable time to debug because it turns out that I had put the Bad Behavior plug-in on my blog earlier and it caused WordPress redirects to stop working — and they are required for N2H to work. But once it was functional, I essentially had a whole bunch of parallel web sites, each one in a different language. All done thru the magic of redirects and this plug-in which shuffles the page out to Google and then delivers the translated version to my visitor!
For those who want more, here are some places to explore:
- Lorelle’s post on translation plugins and widgets, which mentions a number of plug-ins that handle whole-site translation as well as helping solve the problem of posting pages that contain multiple languages. This is where I started — and it led to two full days of both enjoyable and frustrating PHP-twiddling (I always like learning new things, but I dislike beating my head against the wall trying to fix bugs);
- Nothing2Hide WordPress “Global” translator which uuses redirects and “stays within your site.” I also got this plug-in functioning, and I like the way it works (once I got redirects working — the Bad_Behavior plug-in was causing them to fail), but site visitors don’t have any warning that they’re viewing a machine translation and I think that’s not quite fair;
- One Man’s Blog Google-translate [John Pozadzies – goes off to a Google page and lets you browse the site there – easy to implement];
- Angsuman’s Translator Plugin Pro for WordPress [$30 license per site] also uses redirects and makes the translated pages appear to be within your own site. I didn’t even test this one because I support over 20 WordPress sites right now and it wouldn’t be affordable. It probably offers a few features over the Nothing2Hide plug-in, which is free, but I didn’t need them.
WordPress.org (the web site) contains surprisingly little information on translator plugins. I’d recommend that you conduct your own search if you want to investigate more translator plugins.
And my experience is that the Google translations are pretty literal. For instance, my name “Sky” is translated literally as “the sky” and not capitalized, in the translations I am able to understand. And my tagline “…spreading the word in a networked world” comes out more or less as “…splitting the words in a networked world” — so machine translation (after 40 years of trying) still has quite a ways to go. (I even took a swing at natural-language software when I was in graduate school, and it is very tough.)
If you’re a native or skilled reader of one of the languages, I’d really appreciate your comments on how good or bad the Google translations are. My guess is that one can “puzzle out” what each sentence means in most cases, and in a few cases entire sentences actually look surprisingly good. And I’d love to know whether you prefer to have the Google-framed look or prefer to just see the translated site without the Google wrapper.
Oh, did I make it clear that in all cases the translations are done by Google or Babelfish? Not by the translator plug-in itself? The plug-in is only an interface to the more robust translation service. And in some cases the plug-in caches the results to improve performance greatly.
To facilitate this comparison, I’ve also put the Nothing2Hide (N2H) in-place translator below each post (see the flags below) and the Google-framed translator up on the main banner where it will certainly remain. (If you don’t see flags below, it means that I’ve removed the plug-in, having decided against it…)