Wikipedia integrates Google Translate to make its article available in more languages, but will it work?

20th February 2019

Wikipedia plays a prominent role in Google search. Its articles show in the Knowledge Panel in Search and are used in Google home products. Last year, in attempt to tackle fake news on YouTube, Google added – so called “information cues” – links to Wikipedia articles below videos. These “information cues” pop up during videos played on YouTube, allowing users to click and find more information on the topic in question. Although this may not be targeting fake news directly, these information cues hope to provide a stable information ground for viewers when watching videos about a variety controversial topic.

Wikipedia’s aim is to make the articles accessible to everyone in the world but, even with all of the efforts made so far, the company admit that searches are skewed towards English readers.

On January 9th 2019 the Wikimedia Foundation (who runs Wikipedia) announced a collaboration with Google by integrating the search giant’s translation software. The agreement has been initially set for a year and the Wikimedia Foundation can terminate it at any time.

Google Translate is going to be integrated into Wikipedia’s in-house translation tool at no cost, added as an option alongside the open-source translator Apertium, which has been used to translate 400,000 Wikipedia articles to date.

This gives Editors the option to use Google-powered translations or Wikipedia’s in-house tool. We all know that machine translation created by Google translate is far from perfect, however this Wikipedia content translation tool works by creating an initial article adaptation that editors can review, edit, improve and correct the mistakes.

This integration opens opportunities to reach a wider audience and increase Wikipedia’s readership, especially for a number of not widely spoken languages, such as Zulu. Zulu is spoken by some 12 million people, but there are only around 1,000 Wikipedia articles available in the language.

A screenshot of Wikipedia’s translation tool with Google Translate as an option. Image source: Wikimedia Foundation

Will it work? Potentially, as long as the editors put time and effort into proofreading and editing the translation, to make the translated content read well and make sense to the reader. The worry comes with the volume of articles that Wikipedia generates on the daily basis. Will the editors be able to keep up with the demand? Or will the quality of content be compromised and deteriorate to being nothing more than useless?

Machine translation tools are useful for bottom line communication, for example, a catch up with friends but is not advised when accuracy of meaning is crucial. What we need to remember is that an automated translation system has no background knowledge of anything at all other than the languages they are programmed to translate. They have no contextual knowledge and the accuracy can be very inconsistent across different languages.

If you require a high-quality translation for commercial use, contact us now for the 20 Minute Quote, and one of our project managers will help guide you through the planning of your next international project.

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