Posted November 11, 2008 7:52 pm by with 17 comments

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+Share on FacebookBuffer this page

Google Reader premieres a new feature today: the ability to translate feeds into your language! Okay, guys, before the party starts, let me just tell you upfront: I have a degree in Linguistics. Machine translation really isn’t quite there yet.

While this is very cool, and I know you’re thinking I’m wrong, it’s only a start–and sometimes not even a great start.

I won’t make you take my word for it–I found a bilingual blog (Spanish/English), subscribed, and asked Google Reader to translate it for me:

The Good (the blogger’s original English first, then [Google Reader’s translation of his Spanish], from Seattle Sketcher):

Now that we have a new president-elect I think I’m going to take a few days off from Seattle and Sketches Relish the moment. I’ll be back next Thursday Nov. 13. In the meantime, make sure to check the Urban Sketchers site. Thanks for stopping by and for all the comments! Viva Obama!

[Now that we have elected a new president I think I’m going to take a few days off to savor the moment. I’ll be back to the poster next Thursday, November 13. Meanwhile, do not miss the new blog collective Urban Sketchers. Thank you for your views and comments. Viva Obama! ]

And this is even okay:

Sunday afternoon I drove around my neighborhood to find some people I had seen waving Obama signs at an intersection earlier in the day. I thought that would make a great ‘election day’ sketch. But they were not there anymore.

I actually have not seen many signs of the presidential candidates around here. I guess it’s pretty much a given that a blue state like Washington is going to go for Obama. What is not so clear is who will win the race for governor today. Democratic candidate and current governor Christine Gregoire won by just 129 votes four years ago after three recounts. She defeated Republican candidate Dino Rossi, who is running against her again. I was lucky enough on my search for signs to find this cluster of signs with Gregoire and Rossi mixing up with others selling homes, concrete and even a religious preschool.

As I drove back home I did find an Obama / Biden sign in a house near mine. That’s exactly what I needed to complete this Moleskin spread.

I hope both Gregoire and Obama win today.

[On Sunday afternoon I went to give a tour of the neighborhood to see if they found some of Obama supporters with placards that had seen at an intersection of streets in the morning. I thought it might be ideal for a drawing on election day, it is today. But not found.  In fact I have not seen many posters of presidential candidates here. Washington state Democrat, and is traditionally assumed that Obama will win it without problems. What is less clear is who will win in elections for governor. The Democratic candidate Christine Gregoire won by just 129 votes four years ago and after three recounts. , Defeated Republican Dino Rossi, who returns to his opponent on this occasion. At the end of my journey looking for something to draw I was lucky and found this well-populated corner of messages of all kinds, not just the banners of Gregoire and Rossi but also Ads selling houses, cement and even a Christian kindergarten. When I returned home I found a banner of the ticket Obama / Biden in a house near the mine. That was exactly what I needed to complete these pages of my Moleskin. I hope that today earn as much Gregoire Obama. ]

The not so good: Can you understand these translations without the English versions? (emphasis added)

[On Fridays normally I’m not going to the newspaper until the afternoon because I work a different time. People on the bus is often the youngest, most students who go to the campus of the University of Washington. While the bus was doing this picture thought about the bad luck that Halloween has fallen on a Friday this year. I missed the trick or treating with my kids. My consolation is that in my house seems that we are on Halloween from a month ago, when my little girl, who is 3 years, began to put all its guises at all hours of the day: bee, dragon and tiger, which is the that was the end. My boy, who is 5 years, was disguised in Transformer, which is called Optimus Prime. ]


[On Sunday, was 20 World Marathon Drawing and a real group of sketchers met in Seattle Pike Place Market to draw. I am what I spent pipe. Do not miss drawings sketchers around the world in the forums of Drawings previous sketchcrawls here. ]


[The last time I drew one of these kiosks to buy you a coffee without getting in the car was not stopped anyone to buy anything. But this time I was lucky and it went through two cars, which is in the parking lot of North Sound Vineyard Church. ]

Some of these translation problems come from idioms which don’t make sense in English (This blogger said “I had a blast” in English where Google gave “I spent my pipe,” for example and I don’t think a direct translation of “have a blast” would make sense in other languages, too). Other limitations include simple language barriers that people and even better machine translations catch, for example, the fact that Spanish requires fewer pronouns to make grammatical sense than English does.

But none of those are excuses for the downright ugly: Google Reader’s “Translation”:

[ Por si no he anunciado mi nuevo blog colectivo Urban Sketchers lo suficiente, os recuerdo que empieza ma�ana s�bado. No os lo perd�is! ]

[ Estos �ltimos d�as me dan las tantas de la noche trabajando en mi nuevo proyecto Urban Sketchers y tambi�n alimentado este blog. Por la ma�ana, despu�s de llevar a mi hijo a donde se sube al autob�s para el colegio, voy al park ‘n ride y en cuanto me subo a mi autob�s cierro los ojos y me pego una cabezadita de media hora. Cuando llego al centro de Seattle lo primero que hago es ir a tomarme un caf� para despertarme. Ayer fui a Motore Coffee en Stewart St. y la novena avenida. ]

[ Lo siento Pepsi. He de confesarte algo: �ltimamente me he pasado a la Coca Cola. ]

Looks suspiciously unlike English…

While many people will tell you that this is a revolutionary step, I’m definitely not that impressed. Yeah, Google Reader did a decent job with 2 of the first 8 posts from this blog, but three are barely intelligible and three weren’t translated at all. (The other two posts of the first ten in my subscription didn’t have any Spanish in them.)

So yeah, you might be able to get the gist of the posts,or not. I’m not sure that getting 25% of a feed,and having to slog through the rest,is better than getting nothing. What do you think?

  • Thats pretty cool that reader started translating. But since its a direct translation, I’m sure it will have a lot of errors. But it will give a general idea of what the blog is saying

  • I would guess that they are able to translate feeds as well as they are able translate websites. They should be using the same technology. As that technology progress, it will get better. It is hard to translate into other languages as there are so many dialects and slang terms that it can often be hard to get the exact meaning.

    go green’s last blog post..Subscribe to My RSS Feed

  • Hope it will get better, and I agree with *go green, it is hard to translate into other languages as there are so slang terms and hard to get the exact meaning.

    Busby SEO’s last blog post..By: New position in Busby SEO Test | Free Page Rank, Busby SEO Test Monitoring at

  • It is a beginning. I am sure that it will get better with experience! Just like it happens with human beings!!

    Nicole Price’s last blog post..Save Money on Medication

  • I think its a step in the right direction. machine translation certainly has come a long way from where it started – but there is room for more improvements down the road.

  • but as Google will analyze – whether a good translation? now visibly suffering translated between languages.

    for example english – german – spanish – english

    you willn’t be get same text in beginning

    Allan More’s last blog post..Low Cost Payday Loans

  • You can use it to translate the feeds from one language to another a bunch of times until you have unique content and then use the new, unique feed for various sneaky content things :D.

  • Brian Barker

    I am not at all sure that machine transalation will solve the problem of a new global language, worldwide.

    People in some parts of Africa cannot even afford to buy food, let alone to buy a computer, as well.

    I do however think that there is a worldwide language problem, which demands a solution.

    Which is why I think a non-national language, like Esperanto, certainly should be given some consideration.

    An interesting video can be seen at and a glimpse of the language can be seen at

  • This reminds me of a blog post that advocated using this feature to translate your copied content into a foreign tongue, and then back again, as a means to prevent your content being flagged as duplicate content!

  • Bottom line is you have to start somewhere. Not everyone is going to be happy with something if it doesn’t work 100%. trying to bridge the gap between multiple languages is actually pretty challenging alone. Now incorporate computers talking and sending information to each other and it just got more complicated.

    Best CD Rates’s last blog post..Wachovia bank cd rates

  • I just tried translating a Hebrew feed into English and it was pretty painful. Now, for the quick down and dirty when you just want some info … sure, machine translation is fine. But for anything of any worth, it’s got to be done properly.

  • lol lol heehee lol lol. But it is a start though. But The people reading the feed in another language are going to think we’re crazy.

    Hey Jordan, you’re pretty smart eh? A degree in Linguistics… seems pretty tough.


  • “Kinda” is the keyword there for sure.

    Utah SEO Pro’s last blog post..The Future of SEO

  • Looks more like a freight train hit those paragraphs then a translation system. It has a long way to go to be near perfect, however if any company has the money and employees to make it work…that company would be Google.

    Internet Marketing Access’s last blog post..What Is Split Testing And Why You Should Do It

  • I like this new feature. Of course, the translation will be direct but at least the one who cannot understand the article at all will be able to realize its general idea. Google impresses me more an more. Good job!

  • I agree that Google Translation is bad, However Google Translate allows you to edit the translations. With your help, Google Reader will translate even better.

    Infonote’s last blog post..Test

  • It is a beginning. I am sure that it will get better with experience! Just like it happens with human beings!!

    OSYM’s last blog post..KPSS Atamalarında Torpil Var mıdır ?