Non-English language bios

+13 votes

An older question from last year about bi-lingual bios was recently revived:

Would this be something the Global outreach Project should take up? Could we recruit language volunteers to help translate non-English bios? And how could we establish a process for such bios to be submitted for translation?

in The Tree House by Helmut Jungschaffer G2G6 Pilot (523k points)
edited by Keith Hathaway

3 Answers

+5 votes
Best answer
Probably the easiest way to handle translations would be through the languages project; to use a dedicated g2g tag for requests, and to use categories to keep track of profiles that would benefit from translation.
by Erin Breen G2G6 Pilot (224k points)
selected by Sharon Centanne
0 votes

I realize your question was a few months ago, but I just saw it and have an idea.  If the bio could be put onto a web page easily (and I know how to do that) then could Google translate be used to do the job quickly and easily?

Just say the word and I will create a website to serve as a tool for this purpose.  The tool would have an editing page, where you could paste the bio into it.  It would also have a display page where it would show the bio.  If you can use google translate on the display page then you'll have a web page displaying the translation to whatever language you choose.  You can copy the content from there and paste it into WikiTree's editing page.
by Gaile Connolly G2G6 Pilot (780k points)
If something like google translate is used I think it would be good if that is stated somewhere. Google is not always are reliable translator, especially not for Swedish-English (both ways) translations
If this were a 2-step process it might work better: Use google translate and then flag for review by a bilingual person to smoothe out the inevitable machine translation screw-ups.

Does this mean you want me to set up a tool to do this?
I think it is harder to translate something that has already gone through google translate, as it may garble things up worse than someone with a moderate ability of the language would do.
I think you should set up a translater but do it like Helmut has suggested.

Google translater is OK but as others have said isn't reliable and doen't translate the 'local dialects'  or older language at all well. Going from Dutch to English, it just leaves the passages it cant translate as is or misses the words altogther. Another shortcoming with Google is that it doesn't cope with really long passages, often I have to split what I am doing. Many thanks and I hope you do this.
I don't know what translators are good or bad.  All I know is how to set up a tool that would allow content to be pasted on a web page and then it can be saved as a web page.  You can submit it to an online translator - I only said google because that's the only one I know of - and take the result and do whatever you need to with it - whether that is having a real live person with appropriate language skills going over it or whatever ...

If what I can do will help then I will be happy to do it!  I can even put whatever links you want on the page that gets created - to whatever translation service you want to use.
Maybe get people to suggest which translators are good and bad.

Google is the only one I have found,

Your idea is excellent and I would encourage you to go through with it. Despite the issues I would be happy with the google option.

A live person going over it would be essential I would think.

> Could we recruit language volunteers to help translate non-English bios?

I would rather ask to translate English bios into local language ;-).

Maybe G.. translator is OK for translating between Britsh and American (not sure, I bet you a limonade ;-)).

Free automatic translators can help a native speaker (or another volunteer) as you will type less but as already said when it can transalte it doesn't... without any indication it couldn't, sometimes it says exactly the opposite.

They are becoming better, it does not mean they are good, it does mean that they have been worse (I miss you = je mademoiselle vous, now for Google it's "tu me manque", it should be "tu me manques"). Sometimes you want to translate back, thinking that if the result is the original, the translation is OK.

But if G. translate doesn't know, it lets it as it is so the back transaltion would be OK.

I've just written je vous dis que c'est du n'importe quoi.

The translation starts fine but the result is "I tell you that it's anything". The original means that's BS. Not exactly the same, isn't it?

This time the "back translation" is almost OK:

"Je vous dis que ce est quelque chose"

Pretty exactly the opposite.

So except if you know what you're doing, except for short simple positive sentences, avoid G. translate. Advice people to use helpers like dictionnaries.

Check here Linguee. You have the translation in the context. Even the pronunciation. That's best for en-US/fr-CA, for official terms used in Europe, IATE is an excellent thesaurus (i.e. you can specify that you're looking for : try "name" from English to French in social questions for instance).

Providing a posibility to see the translations paragraph by paragrah with the posibbility to approve/disapprove/enhance the sentence would nice to have.

Just after writing this I saw an nice example of mess created by automatic translator :


That reminds me of a funny, but true story.  Back in the early 90's I had a friend who was a Russian immigrant.  Armed with Masters degree in linguistics from Moscow University and fluent in English and French, she had a job at Voice of America, where she translated news stories to Russian and delivered broadcasts.

She told me about a new computer program Voice of America had just gotten their hands on.  She said it was pretty good, but had big trouble with idioms and colloquialisms.  Someone tested going from English to Russian with the phrase "out of sight, out of mind" and the computer responded with the Russian for "invisible idiot".
I tried the translation from English to French with Google translate, it doesn't find the idom, but it's understandable. Less funny than your story!

Strangely, if you give the French idioms "loin des yeux, loin du coeur", the translation into English is the right one
Isn't "coeur" the word for "heart", not "mind", though?

Acutally, I would hope that translation programs had come a long way now since the early 90's.  I'm glad to hear that they are improving!

Yes cœur means heart, but the correct translation in French is "loin des yeux, loin du cœur". Those variations compared to a litteral translation is what shows the connection between languages and cultures.

+2 votes
To me this question relates to question I raised about opening Wikitree to the rest of the non-English speaking world. First of all, I think, Wikitree would require a structure to provide national language support, f.i. like Wikipedia does.
by Ronnie Grindle G2G6 Mach 1 (15.7k points)
I don't think Wikipedia is really a good model for WikiTree in this respect: It really is a collection of parallel Wikipedias with sometimes vastly different content from article to article depending on the language chosen. There is no mechanism in place to get an article in one language into the Wikipedias in other languages. The challenge we face is to maintain a single tree but make it easier for people with other languages to contribute to it.
Yes, Helmut in that respect you're right, parallel, independant profiles are no good. But I was thinking more about the ability to switch between views based on the selected language (and a default).

My humble opinion why we can't compare Wikitree with Wikipedia


  1. We are building one tree
  2. In this tree people speak different languages
  3. One person cn during his life move between different countries/languages


  1. They are building an internet encyclopedia
  2. One article has one language and is "hosted" on a server with just that language
  3. You have interlanguage links but they goes to a different instance

>> switch between views based on the selected language (and a default).

then its Google translate

Add {{Space:SPC_Translate}} to a page and you have it.... or not ;-)

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