According to Twitter’s blog, over 60% of the registered Twitter accounts are now outside of the United States. A recent Nielsen study reports that Japan’s Twitter reach now surpasses the US, reaching 16% of the active internet audience vs. 10% in the US. (Nielsen, April 2010). There are many challenges facing companies that are trying to take advantage of these multilingual markets, including the language factor. Many of the available Twitter tools offer support in multiple languages. Jeffrey L. Cohen reviews 4 in a recent blog post, and Saikat Basu blogs about another 5.
Jeffrey mentions Tweetdeck, which is my Twitter tool of choice. Tweetdeck’s translate function is very user friendly. You simply click on the tweet, then the translate button, and you have the translation from one language into English, or from English into another language. I use it on a regular basis to see what our team in Japan is tweeting about. Here’s an example below:
Voilà! The English translation
That’s where reality comes in though. You can see the translated tweet above. I can read it and get the gist, but I’m still not really sure what they are saying. I have found that the shorter tweets are often better quality. I’m sure that quality varies from one language to another.
It’s one thing to monitor your brand on Twitter globally and try to get the “gist” of what people are tweeting. It’s a whole different challenge to respond back to the tweet in the native language or even put out an original tweet into another language using the translate feature. Without a native speaker approving your tweet, how can you be sure it makes any sense? I tried it a couple of months ago in Polish and asked the Twitter community who spoke Polish for some feedback. They came back to me and told me it was really bad, but then very graciously translated it correctly for me. Do I want to embarrass myself again taking a chance on what I’m saying to our global customers? My answer is definitely not — at least not without some disclaimer that it’s machine translation.
So while it’s great that all of these tools are integrating machine translation into their capabilities, you can’t discount the fact that it’s not the same quality as human translation. Instead of engaging with the global community, you may end up alienating them and embarrassing yourself and your company. Lionbridge’s new Real-Time Translation Service: GeoFluent is able to provide an affordable, customizable solution to help you address this issue. Stay tuned….
Global customers seek information in their language, engage with companies that provide it, and share their product experience with the world.