Movable Type : Machine Translation

Our core web technology platform (the Two Worlds vServer) is aimed at communities and enterprises which require universal content and collaboration services that can be updated and managed in multiple ways, from mobile devices and in strange and exotic places where bandwidth and means of access may be decidedly limited. Many users have English (if at all) as their second language, so I want them to be able to both post in their own language, for those posts to be avaible in other languages and to all users with direct translations of any site content. Here I call in the excellent service at freetranslation.com, which it is possible to call directly from a web page to carry out a machine translation of that page. In fact, if you subscribe to their Platinum service, at an astonishly reasonable $3.95 a year, you a) encourage them to keep going and b) get the facility to refine the dictionary for informal language and automatically follow links in the target language once you’ve translated the first page. So…

Step 1: Don’t mess around, just pay the good folks at freetranslation.com their subscription – you know it makes sense.
Step 2: To use the platinum service, you need to find out how freetranslation has encoded your access password. To do so, go to their web site (http://www.freetranslation.com/), log in and simply translate a random URL – you’ll then see your encoded password displayed in the url. Copy that.
Step 3: Create link on your page, which includes a statement of the form:

<a href=”http://fets5.freetranslation.com/?url=<? echo ‘http://’,$_SERVER[‘HTTP_HOST’], $_SERVER[‘PHP_SELF’] ?>&project=Standard&followLinks=all&language=English%2FFrench&translate=translate&username=platinum&password=ENCODED_PASSWORD title=”Traduire ce site au Fran&ccedil;>Translate this page into…</a>

where you substitute your copied encoded password for ENCODED_PASSWORD. In this example, I’m translating the current page from English to French, telling it to automatically translate links once the first page is translated and using the informal dictionary – adjust to taste.

Note: This has been updated as of January 2006: Freetranslation changed their system, breaking the original code. The above is current and working. If you want to add translation of your web site within the limits imposed by their free service, details are on their web site.

This method does require that you have php processing enabled on your server. Here’s how to do that particular task.

Step 4: Test it.

I believe that freetranslation do put a limit on the number of translations allowed per day, so this solution, using the basic subscription, is good for sites where the translation traffice requirements won’t be particularly high. There are also of course the well-known limitations of machine translation – it can be over-literal, the grammar is usually approximate and it really doesn’t get colloquialisms or cultural-dependent phrases. It is however good enough to get the gist across, but should not be relied on in a life-or-death situation – beyond that, Freetranslation does offer a range of human translation services, which seem like a damn good idea for static content that needs formatl translation.

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