Monday, February 23, 2009

Reading World Streets in other languages

* * * To go to today's front page, click here * * *
To make the contents of World Streets more broadly accessible to friends and colleagues who work primarily in other language groups, we have linked the site to the increasingly well-performing Google machine translation engines that you will now find here. In each case all you have to do is click the language in which you wish to see the rough translation, and it will quickly appear on your monitor.

If you read the translation in parallel with the English-language original in front of you, you will in almost all cases be able to arrive at a pretty fair understanding of the thrust and main content of that particular article or announcement. It is of course not a substitute for a professional translation, but it can be extremely helpful for those who are ready to make an effort to use it with judgment.

If for some reason you prefer entering directly in the machine translation version, you can call them up as follows:

Arabic –
Danish –
Dutch –
French –
Hebrew –
Indonesian -
Italian –
Japanese -
Russian -
Swedish -

We have also put in for testing and control purposes translation links into a number of ex-European languages of which I as editor have no knowledge at all. If you are fluent in any of those languages, we invite you to give them a try and to let us know if this is something we can work with, or not. We understand that the language leap may be a problem, but we would at the very least like to be able to provide potentially useful clues. Thank you for taking the time to share your views with us.

If any of these are found to be even approximately useable, we will set them up for one click access as well. But first let’s wait to see what kinds of response we get from the experts.

If anyone here has better ideas of how to handle this, we invite them with real interest to get in touch.

Eric Britton, Editor

PS. I suggest you also have a look at the Comments posted just below here. There offer some interesting perspectives from speakers of the language in question.

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  1. dear eric
    the trasnlation to portuguese is fine understandable

    but the website is alittle heavy, I believe (maybe it is local problem, but...if it makes sense to you maybe it is heavy...)

    regards, g

    Giselle Noceti Ammon Xavier UDESC CEFID
    Universidade do Estado de Santa Catarina
    Rua Paschoal Simone, 358 Florianópolis/SC Brasil 88080 350
    Celular/Mobile +55 (48) 9101 1783 Skype gisellexavier

  2. My feeling from looking at the Chinese (I'm not a native speaker/reader of the language) as well as having read machine translations from Chinese and other languages into English, is that the reader can get the gist, but it's usually rather uncomfortable and tedious to read, which, unless the reader has a real vested interest in understanding the content, would probably preclude him or her from spending the time to decipher the translation.

    To get an idea, just go to a webpage in one of these languages and have Google translate it back into English, and I guess you'll see what I mean--you can get the idea, but it takes a special concentration. Perhaps between European languages the translations will be closer, but Chinese--and I'd guess other languages outside of the occidental family--has idioms, word order, syntax, etc. that is just really far from English.

    Hope that helps.


  3. The Indonesian one is not the greatest but from the bit that I read, you can sort of understand it if you use a bit of imagination and if you understand the untranslated English bits. The most systematic issues are:

    * Some of the longer sentences don't really make sense because multiple clauses don't work in bahasa Indonesia.
    * The translation doesn't seem to do well with colloquialisms or things that have two meanings like "pretty" good or "check out".
    * Many propositions translate wrongly (because they are used differently) e.g. "on", "to", "from", "in" are often jumbled.
    * When words are not translated they are inserted into the sentence in the wrong order.

    Also, from a stylistic point of view, written bahasa Indonesia tends to use more passive voice than English. The active voice (which is preferred in English) doesn't sound very sophisticated for a written document.



  4. I agree with Ria. The machine may be good to translate words or simple sentences but the Indonesian translation of more complex sentences or even phrases sounds gibberish.


  5. Maria and Ria,

    Does this mean that we should supress the Indonesian tranlate link? I would have liked to maintain it as a courtesy. But if it is just too useless?

    On the other hand perhaps we should have the link take the Indonesian visitor to a short intro section, in proper language, which explains the intention, and the limited usefulness. What do you think?

    And thanks so much for sharing your ideas with us.

    Eric Britton

  6. Just to let you know that the german language is tolarable. It allows you to understand most of the message.


    Patrick Daude
    Coordinator Global Network "Cities for Mobility"
    City Hall of Stuttgart, Germany
    Mayor's Policy Office
    Rathaus, Marktplatz 1
    D-70173 Stuttgart

    Phone: +49 711 216 - 85 01
    Fax: +49 711 216 - 61 05

  7. Spanish translation:

    Está bien tambien, me parece que alcanza el nivel de idioma ;-)

    Patrick Daude
    Coordinator Global Network "Cities for Mobility"
    City Hall of Stuttgart, Germany
    Mayor's Policy Office
    Rathaus, Marktplatz 1
    D-70173 Stuttgart

  8. Dear Eric Britton,

    I’ve tested the language translation machine, it works fine with Chinese, but several points are not good or even not understandable.

    I would like to assist to make something better, but pity is that I didn’t find a way to support :)

    Maybe you can give me some suggestions.

    Best Regards,
    Hou Yue []

  9. Dear Eric,

    It’s my pleasure to giving some possible feedback as to usefulness oft he Chinese translation.

    Although there is some mis-translation there, I would still suggest to leaving it, as 70% of the content is correct and understandable.

    By the way, I had just voted for the frequency :)

    Best Regards/

    Yue HOU

  10. I had just the time to take a look at the automatic translator on your blog that looks to work pretty well in Italian.

    Enrico Bonfatti
    Bergamo, Italy

  11. hey there! this is just a quick comment to thank/congratulate you all for launching the site, and i have one quick suggestion which is that it might make sense if you had the links to the translations written out in the target language, i.e., 中文简体 (simplified--for mainland china) or 中文繁體 (traditional--for hong kong and taiwan) instead of "Chinese" written in English (actually, to further complicate matters, google translate doesn't make the distinction between traditional and simplified, but yahoo babelfish does)
    Monday, 13 April, 2009

  12. Thanks so much Jane. So now following your guidelines I have switched from Google to Babelfish, and to "simplified Chinese". Have a look if you will and let me know if this going to be comprehensible? Kind thanks.

    Eric Britton -
    World Streets
    Paris France

  13. Hi, just thought to check back here. Sorry, I guess I was not very clear in my earlier post. What I meant was non-English-reading Chinese visitors to the site might not catch the word "Chinese" written in English, whereas they would probably quickly see the word "Chinese" written in Chinese, especially against a sea of Roman characters. I would guess this might be true for readers of other languages as well, "Español" instead of "Spanish," "Deutsch" instead of "German," etc., although I would guess most European readers would be able to see identify their language in English anyway. But Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Russian--the languages that use non-Romanized scripts--those will stand out if the name of the language is written in that language. Unfortunately, I don't read any of the others, so I can't really help with translations (other than "Japanese," which is 日本語 but for single words Google and Babelfish are generally pretty accurate. Also, most Wikipedia entries on languages include the language name written in that language's script. Lastly, from what I've seen, I'd say Google Translate generally handles longer translations better than Babelfish (at least with Chinese to English). But it does lack the Traditional Chinese option, so if you wanted to include that, you'd have to use Babelfish I guess.

  14. Estimado Eric...

    Sin lugar a dudas hay que cautelar la esencia del o los contenidos propios en relación a los Modos No Motorizados, cualquier ayuda es muy bienvenida, es altamente probable que las traducciones no reflejen el pensamiento en algunos de los casos, es por ello que es preferible un lenguaje sencillo y técnico, para que no presente problemas a la mayoría de los lectores. Les saluda atte.

    Ricardo Jerez Aura
    Ceo - Director Velosantiago - Defensa de La Bicicleta
    Modos No Motorizados Universidad Diego Portales
    Facultad de Ingenieria en Obras Civiles
    56 - 2 - 676 24 64
    C H I L E

  15. Ricardo Jerez AuraTuesday, 12 May, 2009

    Estimado Eric.

    Buenas Tardes...Sucede que como realizó clases en la Universidad sobre Modos No Motorizados varia el lenguaje, por ejemplo :

    1.- Tenemos el lenguaje para los Estudiantes, que es de carácter técnico.

    2.- Por otro lado esta el LENGUAJE entre los profesionales de la Movilidad y Transporte.

    3.- Y por último este LENGUAJE de listas como Ecoplan en que todos debemos de tratar
    de explicar de forma simple aspectos que para todas las personas debe ser CLARO y
    atractivo para sumar voluntades en todo el mundo.

    Resumen : El atractivo de APRENDER radica en la simpleza de la escritura en los más variados idiomas. Por tanto la iniciativa es MUY POSITIVA, SÓLO CUIDAR LAS FORMAS!!

    Ricardo Jerez Aura
    Ceo - Director Velosantiago
    Santiago, Chile

  16. On use of Google translate in Hungarian: Q&A

    "(a) Are there many people in Hungary who are not comfortable in English, including political people and others in your city."

    - Many more than what would be ideal.

    "(b) Do you think that the things we cover in World Streets are important for your city."

    For sure I think, and I am already very thankful for your help.

    (c) is it better than nothing(the translating machine)

    Cast stones at me, but I honestly think that it's not better. If you stand before a city official with a text of this quality 3 things could happen. 1, he will laugh at you 2, he won't even understand it 3, he will misunderstand it, and at these levels, this could be dangerous.

    Maybe because of the complexity of the hungarian language, or the great difference from western languages, but these translating tools never really worked... One could just not understand these translations, neither way.

    Róbert Szűcs


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