Twitter has already “taken over” the U.S., transcending demographic and geographic boundaries to reach nearly everyone in the country. Okay, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. But it certainly has grown since its humble beginnings as a sketch on Jack Dorsey’s notepad.
Now not only is the Twitter interface in six languages — English, Japanese, and FIGS (French, Italian, German, and Spanish) — but it is now becoming so international that tweets themselves are in multiple languages. In fact, 6 in 10 registered accounts now come from outside of the U.S., says the San Francisco-based company.
Some hard data to decipher, from the Twitter engineering team. Hint: Upward trajectory = growth.
Twitter’s international account growth
And, if you add in the fact that Twitter is so mobile — the combination of smartphones with Twitter apps, and tweets’ similarity to SMS — pretty soon we’re going to have multilingual tweets “flying about from one corner of the world to the other.”
So what’s a poor mono-lingual tweeter to do?
On a large scale — and if the quality of your communication really matters — you should really consider using a social media translation service. That is, pairing your social media content (e.g., blog posts, tweets, profile updates, etc.) with professional translation that will make 100% sure your message is not getting distorted from straight-up machine technology.
This is especially important for a) marketing and advertising messages, and b) customer communication. When responding to internet “buzz” about your brand, or positioning yourself as a thought leader in the industry, it is extremely important that your vocabulary match the sophistication level of your brand and that there is no chance of miscommunication.
On an individual level, however, there are ways to use basic machine translation technology to communicate with, say, your newfound Brazilian follower-friend who has hooked you up with some links to some great local political blogs you would have never found on your own.
Thanks to Saikat Basu for the review of these tools, which we have summarized below:
An experimental Firefox add-on (using Google Translate technology) that gives you the option of translating an incoming tweet into English, with the click of the globe icon below the tweet. It works both in your Twitter stream as well as in your individual public tweets page.
With Twiee (beta), you have eight languages to choose from: English, Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese. From the homepage, you pick a language and log in with your Twitter credentials. Your stream is then displayed in the original language and the one you chose. With the language choice dropdown, you can also enter a tweet and directly submit it as a translated one.
Type in your tweet, select one of 42 languages from the dropdown, and you’re all set. You can opt to send only the translated tweet or both the original as well as the translated one.
With this tool, you don’t have to download anything or use a particular site. Just put the username @tweetrans + a language code, such as “2fr” (French). There are more complicated capabilities, and 39 other languages, but check the site for instructions.
There are other tools noted in this article, such as Twenglish, which is a “twool that lets you tweet like a twird.” And yes, if you want your tweets translated into Klingon, there’s a Twitter tool for that too.