The universal translator was once a convenient fiction from Star Trek that let aliens break through language barriers, but now it’s an awe inspiring reality. Automatic language converters are on the internet, in your iPhone, and they’re ready to take on Twitter. Companies like Twanslate, Twinslator, and Tweet Translate will take your tweet and change it into any one of a myriad of languages you choose. Lost in a foreign land? Now you can let your tweets speak for you. Twitter itself recently began translating its pages into non-English languages. Soon visitors to Twitter will be able to read the main text of the site in any of the world’s languages from Arabic to Urdu. It’s probably only a matter of time before Twitter adopts a universal translator into the site itself. Think about that! You tweet in one language and Twitter would automatically broadcast it in another. Just click on a twitter feed and you can read it, no matter where it’s from. Universal translators are going to take the tweet from a fad to the forerunner of global society.
Automatic language translation lets artificial intelligence connect you to anyone no matter the language. The Apps on your smart phone allow you to translate between languages simply by speaking into the device and pressing a button. That’s just a mind blowing technology. Unfortunately, it’s not available in all languages. But guess what is? Text translators. They’re fast, fairly accurate, and usually free. Those are the key ingredients that can bring a technology to explode onto the global scene.
As text based tweet translators become firmly entrenched, they’ll let your tweet reach a wider audience, a global one that doesn’t have to learn new languages to communicate. AI will do it for us. As Twanslate and other third-party-developed programs become more popular, they’ll also struggle to get faster and better at what they do. How long before tweet translators are smart enough to automatically convert any twitter feed you want to follow without you having to ask? At that point, Twitter users won’t be divided by language barriers, they’ll be united by common interests.
The technology for a global tweet is here and different companies give you different ways to make it happen. You can use Google Language Tools to translate text and then cut and paste it into Twitter. Twanslate makes it a little simpler: just direct message them on Twitter and they’ll direct message you back with the text translated into a different language of your choosing. Twinslator and Tweet Translate are the most direct: you just go to their website, input your text and they’ll tweet it for you. Of course, you’ll also have to give them your User ID and password. All of these, however, are precursors to Twitter integrating translation software directly into its site. Give it a few years, and tweet translations will happen automatically, without you having to do anything at all.
That’s becoming true wherever you look. Universal translation software has reached a point were it can be adapted into almost any other technology. It still has its kinks. Nuance and subtlety will confuse translators most of the time and programs that access a central server can take a few seconds to process the conversion. Yet that’s why universal translators fit so well with twitter. There’s only ever 140 characters to deal with, and users are intentionally making their messages as clear and precise as possible. Twitter and universal translators were meant for each other. It’s fate, baby.
Tweet translators are likely to impact other Twitter phenomenon. Massively tweeted messages, the so-called tweetbombs, are going to spread wider and more easily when they can be automatically translated into many languages. Twitter accounts with huge numbers of followers (>1 million) may not effect the tweet-sphere all on their own, but think of what power they might have when they can reach users all over the world in their native tongues.
We’re already under a constant bombardment of online information. News feeds, Facebook updates, Google Alerts, emails, and text messages…there’s too much in the pipeline for anyone to really absorb and understand it all. It looks like it’s going to get worse. As universal translation software matures we will have access to people of diverse cultures and languages as easily as we have access to our neighbors. Information will flow freely in many different directions. Looking at Singularity Hub’s stats, we already enjoy readers in different countries, speaking dozens of languages, all without much work on our part. Universal translators allow common interest and curiosity to shape our information flows even as we struggle to find direction under their torrents.
With so much to process, we’re going to want to learn more in less time – that’s the essence of Twitter! The tweet, the small encapsulated thought bubble, could carry universal translation into the mainstream. Automatic language conversion software may give ride to the flood of interest that breaks down the language barrier once and for all. Global culture based on just 140 characters of text? Awesome and terrifying at the same time.
[image credit: Twinslator, Twitter]