AOL eyes international growth with Techcrunch purchase

AOL is buying the leading technology blog Techcrunch to expand the offerings of critical content to its audiences. The Wall Street Journal reports that “AOL has recently hired hundreds of writers to create more original news and local and entertainment content while it aggressively restructures its mix of assets during sharp declines in revenue and profits.” The purchase of Techcrunch, which has millions of readers, is a good way for AOL to gain more users and to gain favor with the advertisers that want to reach them.

The purchase of Techcrunch may also be an attempt by AOL to regain prominence in international markets where it once had a mighty presence. Techcrunch comes with a few solid international assets: Techcrunch France (French), Techcrunch Japan (Japanese) and the English language Techcrunch Europe.

AOL once had foreign portals in a few dozen European and Asian countries. Each portal had unique content targeted to the customers in those countries. AOL has shut down most of these portals, and now has portals for France, Japan, the UK and a Spanish language AOL Latino portal. By acquiring leading blogs with good international assets, AOL can reestablish their presence in some of the foreign countries they abandoned and gain back some of their international users.

Through the years AOL has translated some of its content, such as for its leading Engadget blog, in order to localize this content to international audiences. At one point, AOL was considering the deployment of Globalsight Translation Management System (TMS) to translate some of its blog content.

As AOL continues to create more original content and as it acquires leading content providers such as Techcrunch, we can expect AOL to accelerate its internationalization efforts by translating and localizing more content; by reestablishing some of the international portals it had shut down in recent years; and by acquiring more content providers that have a presence both in other countries and in other languages.

Preparing content for machine translation with spelling/grammar tools

Last week I wrote a post on integrating grammar tools in the MT post-editing process. The post generated some interesting comments. One of the comments was made by Dr. Frans Wijma of Shufra, a technical documentation company in Singapore.

Grammar-checking on the output of MT will only expose flaws in the MT software. It makes much more sense to check (and edit) the input to MT so the MT results are more accurate. We do this using Simplified Technical English, and it dramatically improves the quality and accuracy of both the source and any translations.

This is a good idea: prepping content that you are about to feed into machine translation with spelling and grammar tools. For it is a well known fact that entering text with spelling mistakes can be disastrous to the outcome of the machine translation; the MT does not have any way of knowing that it is a mistake and usually just translates the word as it sees it. There are also some types of sentences that MT does not process well; long sentences should be shortened into a few sentences for example. Sentences with ambiguous meanings tend to come out poorly in MT. Running the text through grammar checking tools can help make the text more palatable to the MT. Misplaced or omitted punctuation can also adversely affect the MT quality.

Having said this, however, we should realize that the job of a translator is to accurately convert the thoughts of the writer in another language. The job of a translator is not to second-guess the writer and change the meaning of the words. That would be betray our jobs are translators. So the prepping work should be limited to fixing spelling mistakes and crude grammar and punctuation errors.

The MT vendors are working on new technology that would correct input errors automatically. This includes natural language disambiguation, context sensitive spelling error correction and other neat stuff. In the meantime, use of available spell and grammar checkers can help improve MT quality.

Integrating grammar checking tools into the MT post-editing process

Post-editing of machine translated (MT) text is becoming mainstream in the translation industry. Several factors have contributed to this:

  1. Companies are demanding more for their money.
  2. Content explosion! The amounts of content keep on growing and there are not enough human translators to do all of the work
  3. Improvements in MT have made post-editing more economically viable and less of a compromise to translation quality.

Many translators and translation companies still refuse to deal with post-editing of MT. But the big companies are doing it and they are setting the trend for the future. SDL says that they post-edit over 200 Million words per year (click here to read about it on their website). It is only a matter of time and post-editing of MT will become a de-facto standard.

A few days ago, I had an interesting thought: what if we were to take machine translation (MT) output and stick it into a grammar checking application. Would it help improve MT quality? And if so, should you be integrating grammar tools into your post-editing process?

We ran a series of tests which anyone (with an Internet connection and MS Word) can do on their own. We took some benchmark text, ran it through the MT and then ran the grammar/spell checker in MS Word. We did this in several languages (MS Office provides grammar checking tools in multiple languages).

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Taking it to the streets: announcing the GTS Translation plugin

GTS has released a free WordPress plugin for multilingual blog publishing: the GTS Translation plugin. If you have a WordPress blog, you can download and install the plugin from within your WordPress Admin panel. More about the GTS Translation plugin from the WordPress website.

Background

Since the late 1990s, blogging has become one of the most widely used forms of online communication. There are over 100 Million blogs as of 2010, and the number is growing rapidly due to the rising popularity of social networking and blogging platforms such as WordPress and Blogger.

99% of blog content is not being translated into other languages. Unlike corporate websites, which are translated into other languages for business purposes, most bloggers lack the resources to translate their content. Moreover, blogs are much more dynamic than websites; many blogs are updated daily or even several times a day. Maintaining an active blog in multiple languages provides several technical and administrative challenges.

What’s so special about our solution?

There are dozens of plugins available for all of the popular blogging platforms.  Nearly all of the solutions use Google Translate. So what’s special about our plugin? Well a few things:
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