Facebook is testing a comment translation feature

News to hand is that Facebook has started testing on a new feature that allows for translations of comments on member’s walls

that could overcome the language barrier many users experience on the social network. If a comment posted on a Page is in a language that is different than the one your Facebook account is set to, a Translate button may show up just below it beside the existing Like button. Clicking on the button will translate the comment to your account language. After translation, an Original button appears instead, and if you click that it will revert the comment to the original version (and presumably offer the Translation button again).”

If you go through to the original post on zdnet, you can see a screener of the feature in the wild.

It’s not clear how many languages are currently supported, but English, Spanish, French, Hebrew, and Chinese appear to be on the list. The system is far from perfect: it doesn’t always recognize the comments. Sometimes one or more words aren’t translated and other times the following error shows up: “There is no translation available for this story at the moment.”

On the flipside, the technology seems to be work with slang. In the example above, Facebook figured how to translate “Totally cool” from Hebrew to English. Given that Facebook employed its own users to translate the social network’s user interface into multiple languages, I’m wondering if this feature works in a similar way: it may be remembering certain phrases that users have inputted in the past.

It’s an interesting move by Facebook – given that English is soon to become, if not already, the second language of the internet (after Chinese), it makes sense from the perspective of continual growth and innovation to keep people on board, but I certainly don’t feel that FB is in the same position as Google in terms of being able to monetize this change. Google already has the translation infrastructure, and a broad enough business model that this type of development can be seen to have positive affects on the whole suite of products. FB only really has one product, and I can’t see them moving into translation in the same way.

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In fact, I’ve just been over to the Google Translate blog and found that they have recently released an extension for the Chrome browser that does the same thing. They note that the whole system is still experimental, but as I noted above, Google have been in translation for a lot longer, and integration will be the last mile of the whole process – not a completely new feature tacked on as an after thought.

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