The Worldwide Lexicon, an open source project I have led for several years, recently published a suite of collaborative translation tools that enable you or your readers to create, edit and share translations to and from almost any human language. We have been testing the system throughout the summer, and in this article I explain how you can use WWL to make your site or content accessible in many languages.
WWL applies the concept of user generated content, similar to systems like Wikipedia, to the task of creating, improving and sharing translations for texts. The system does not use machine translation, but instead relies on people. Human language demands people to comprehend it, and while machine translation has improved, even accurate machine translations are not usually enjoyable to read. The key insight in WWL is that a website that has an audience will have bilingual readers, often without knowing it. These people are both interested in and more knowledgeable about the subject matter, so some of them will be willing to translate it, whether for goodwill or for money. WWL creates a simple way for a website’s readers to contribute, edit and share translations.
We began testing the system with a Word Press plug-in this summer, and have since released PHP libraries, as well as a Firefox extension. More tools are planned for release soon. The system is open source, and we are encouraging developers to embed this process in a wide range of platforms. The ultimate goal is to make collaborative translation a checkbox option on most publishing platforms, so that anyone who wants to be accessible can be. Since the release of the Word Press plug in, WWL has logged users in 107 countries representing some 50 languages, with over two-thirds of the users coming from outside the United States, suggesting a pent up demand for multilingual publishing tools.
WWL is easy to incorporate into a wide variety of web services. In this article, I’ll describe how to use the different tools we’ve created so far, and how they can be adapted for custom use.