Getting to the Worldwide part of the Web with Der Mundo

by Translation Guy on March 29, 2013

The biggest problem with machine translation on the Internet is not that it’s inaccurate or can’t translate poetry or Shakespeare. The problem is that it’s pull technology rather than a push, meaning you have to fetch your translation rather than have it come bouncing to you.

So unless you’re using Chrome with the auto-translate feature enabled, you have to go to Google or Bing and DIY (do it yourself). Chrome can be configured to automatically translate pages encountered on the web and is a feature I really miss since I’ve had to move back to Firefox for the voice recognition capabilities.

But what good is all that content if you can’t find it in the first place, even with Google Translate fully enabled on Chrome? It’s the problem of search term translation that is taking the worldwide out of the web. Search on an English term and you’re going to get English results, confining us to the gilded Guantánamo of the Internet’s favorite language. I have not found a useful tool to break that search barrier.

Shockingly, this means that my own unstinting contribution to the Internet remains mostly untranslated. It sucks that the price of admission to the TranslationGuy peepshow requires mastery of the English language, since I refuse to pay to get it translated. This exposes me as the hypocritical cheapskate that I am, which is not usually a problem but in this case is bad for my persona.

So we are going to be trying out Der Mundo to quickly push out translations of TranslationGuy content into many languages. This clever tool by language visionary Brian McConnell is an easy-to-use short-link generator similar to bitly but with a multilingual twist. Instead of generating a link directly to the URL in hand, the tool generates a link to a machine translation of the page that matches translation output in the language of your browser. Der Mondo uses multiple MT services, mostly Google, some Bing and Apertium (an open-source machine translation tool) to get to the best possible translation.

Are the results spotty?  Darn tootin’!  Did I mention it was free?  Not only is it free, but it’s instantaneous, a critical advantage.

Der Mundo as a link generator/translator is just the beginning. Brian stopped by the other day to talk about it.

“The main goal is to create a curatorial process that makes interesting and emerging stories in other languages visible across languages,” he told me.

“You share a link, and then that gets spread around via social media. If it’s popular, it goes viral, so while the basic service is simple, when combined with social media it becomes a mechanism for finding interesting content in other languages,” says Brian. But that’s for the next release.

“We’ll be revealing search and curation tools that index submissions by topic and keyword/tags, so users will be able to search on a term and see anything people have linked to, in any language, about that term.”

Since most of the content on the web has a super-short shelf life, Brian believes that the machine translation will be the default for most users.  But he envisions eventually offering a human translation option for stories that engender the most interest among Der Mundo fans.

Our own Der Mundo adoption should be complete by next week, so check out the results by following me on twitter @translationguy and on my 1-800-Translate facebook page. Let me know what you think.


  1. Pay to get it translated? Can’t you task an intern or underling for something like that

    • Ken says:

      That’s the idea. Someone to edit the MT and put it back up.

  2. Kim says:

    I’ll have to check this out, I’m always wanting to share news stories with non-english speaking friends and nothing ever translates well enough.

  3. It detects their preffered language, how cool is that? Probably doesn’t translate too well, but with time this could be quite a great service (and for free!)

    • Ken says:

      Free is good.

  4. I think this Brian fellow has something quite good on his hands, I look forward to using it and seeing how it evolves.

    • Ken says:

      He’s got all kinds of tricks up his sleeve, if that’s what you mean…

  5. Well at least people are trying to think creatively about how to translate internet content and bridge communication gaps, it’s not prefect but it’s a start.

  6. Any idea as to the timeline on when actual human translation would be available, and would it still be a free service then? I would think not.

    • Ken says:

      It will be volunteer translators. I’m not sure how the business model is supposed to work.

  7. Amy Sicro says:

    I think this is a really great idea, but does the link only work for one language or does the person who clicks it get to choose their own language?

    • Ken says:

      It works in whatever language your browser is using.
      French for French, etc.

  8. Chris says:

    So essentially it’s kind of a crowdsourcing software with software as it’s crowd? Cool.

  9. Iona says:

    How spotty is the translation? Obviously not too bad since your using it

    • Ken says:

      I have low standards, Iona.

  10. I think the instantaneous nature of it is the best feature, especially considering, as you pointed ouy, the small window of relevance of most web content.

  11. Bennet Daube says:

    How exactly does the translation get spilt between Google, Bing and Apertium? Does each article get generated from all three or does it just select the best result from all three and spit it out?

  12. I only use Chrome, but I thought all web browsers at this point had auto translate.

  13. Trisha says:

    Never run across Apertium, how does it compare to Google (which is essentially the dominant machine translation service out there)? Because honestly, Google is endlessly frustrating, what it spits out just seems like something done by children.

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