Translate the Web, Connect the World

Mark Zuckerberg released a letter to potential Facebook investors last Wednesday, and while he provided interesting insight into Facebook as a company and their hacker culture, most of it’s dedicated to the Facebook’s mission: “to make the world more open and connected.”

It sounds like a lofty goal but as Zuckerberg stresses, when narrowed down to its smallest point, it’s about people connecting. Whether that’s people connecting to other people or people connecting to content (i.e. brands), it doesn’t matter. What really struck me though is how language translation is core to this mission. How can the world’s peoples truly connect?

I think the key to human connection is found in translation. I’ve been thinking about this more so after some recent and fascinating conversations with multilingual technology leaders, folks who are really concerned about language ecology. As someone who studied both CS and linguistics, it was refreshing to know that global tech giants take the preservation of language very seriously. They are doing their best to care for their translation quality – yet we all recognize that with the explosion of online content, and the pace of its production, the challenge is mounting.

Smartling, as a technology provider, has been mistakenly perceived as somehow trying to “automate” translation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our platform does integrate with commercial MT solutions, but what we provide is a translation management system. We provide you the technology to translate the web.

Our clients’ site owners now have a modern toolset to manage this complicated workflow. Human translators (whether paid or volunteer) have the tools they need to do live, in-context translations of digital content. They are our power users and we have extreme respect for their artful skill.

Imagine all of the content, all of the people, you are not finding and connecting with because it’s beyond your language skills. People refer often to things that are “lost in translation” but I want to challenge us to think about what’s found in translation. What ideas, concepts, innovations, people would you find if the open and connected web became the open, connected and translated web?

It’s something to think about (and it’s something worth working on).

About Team Smartling

Smartling is a software company with the mission to make the world’s content multilingual.