istartedsomething.com, now in 13 languages, powered by Microsoft Translator widget

istartedsomething spanish

In the Microsoft “2019” vision video, you might recall the first scene where two kids are talking to each other through a digital wall and their speech is instantly translated from English to Hindi and vice versa. That language-neutral vision is now nearly a reality on the web thanks to the Microsoft Translator Widget.

In true Web 2.0 style, the service announced last week at Microsoft’s MIX09 conference is in a limited invite-only technology preview. I’ve been lucky enough to get an early invite-code to try out on this blog, and I love it. It’s as easy to implement as embedding a YouTube video, and the end-user experience is fast, convenient and without disruption – the user stays on the page.

There is however a couple bugs related to different browsers including IE8 (use compatibility mode) and Safari 4, but they’re definitely working on it. Their blog also indicates they’re still tweaking the design, adding features and progressively adding languages.

I’ve been told users who’ve registered their interest on the Microsoft Translator Widget website should be getting their invite codes this week. Can’t wait to see this on many more sites.

37 insightful thoughts

  1. I am not sure if the current machine based translation technology could be considered ready for prime time yet – it is entertaining at best: the German translation does not really keep the meaning of the original and the grammar is, well, I guess it can be called a mix of English and German. I guess it can be summarized best with “Nice idea, not so nice execution.” for now.

  2. “MIX09: Windows Mobile 6,5 muestra más uñas” -Haha that made my day :)

    I agree with Björn’s comment. A lot of the meaning is lost in translation, but it is a technology that keeps getting better over time.

    But I also thing that if you don’t know the language, it is better than not understanding anything, and is less of a hassle to translate it using another webpage.

  3. I tried the Dutch and Japanese translations for this page, and the output is absolutely horrible in both cases. Nowhere near usable.

  4. I also have to agree with Björn, Pharod and Simon. But it´s great fun – as the german translations of Microsofts KB-Articles are.

    MIX09: Windows Mobile 6.5 zeigt weitere polnischen -> Windows Mobile 6.5 shows more from Poland? Great … :-)

  5. Well I guess the translations can get better, but at least the the tech is pretty cool right now.

  6. Hmmm … I tried it and it was great but I wonder how can I get back to the English version without having to refresh the page !

  7. Well, the translation to italian isn’t too bad. :)
    But as Björn said, the german version is quite messed up in syntax and grammar, probably because the two languages are very different in how they structure sentences.

  8. I just tried the Spanish translation of istartedsomething.com and it worked… and pretty fast, too.

  9. je teste en commentant cet article en Francais pour voir si le systeme se bug vu que je suis suppose laisser les commentaires en anglais

  10. this is funny I just posted a comment in French and the widget didn’t recognize that it was French – the result is somewhat funny when going back and forth between languages

  11. Erm.. your statement, “English to Indian” is wrong. So, do Americans speak American? (Actually, a lot of people would argue that is true).
    For a list of languages spoken in India, look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_languages_by_total_speakers
    There are 29 languages spoken by over a million people each. English and Hindi are the official languages of India. Also, approx. 350 million Indians speak English. That’s about equal to the COMBINED population of the United States and the United Kingdom (http://www.abc.net.au/newsradio/txt/s1363471.htm). When making multicultural statements, please verify their authenticity. You definitely don’t want to annoy the 20% Indian population in Microsoft’s Engineering department..

  12. Very cool.

    This headline becomes “Powered by Microsoft Account-Alerts-Barcode-Calendar-Clipboard-Contacts-Core-Custom ウィジェット 13 の言語で今、istartedsomething.com” in Japanese. Looks like it somehow found an alphabetical list of Live services, haha…

  13. Unfortunately, the translations are not terrific. I tried Italian, French and Spanish, which I speak. While some sentences are well translated, the majority are awkward. Errors include the wrong tense for verbs, improper positioning of adjectives, use of the wrong preposition and use of the wrong phrase to translate something (e.g., literal word-for-word translation instead of a connotative, semantic translation).

    Still, I think speakers of other languages would be able to understand most of what’s on the page… and this is a huge development. I know that if I were to view a page in Japanese, German or Swedish, I would be completely lost. But this translation widget can really open the doors to people from other countries and other cultures.

    How cool.

  14. @Abishek,

    Americans indeed speak what’s commonly referred to as American English. With the exception of the Native Americans who speak in several hundred different dialects.

    As for the Widget… cute but useless.

  15. Although the translations (to Spanish at least) aren’t very good, the widget works quite well. But I can’t find the way of returning to the original language, other than refreshing the page…

    Oh, and the icons of the widget are not visible in Chrome 2.0.170.0 :(

  16. Racist, no greek, and i visit your site like everyday and i dont see greek -.-

    Microsoft is racist 😛

  17. wow. how did you get access to the widget so soon!

    I hope it drives more traffic.

    Or maybe you could blog those super-secret new features in some obscure language :-)

  18. Neat, it’s almost instant right on the page!

    Of course, the most of the translations seem rather rough. Perhaps they should hire some linguists for a day to help fix some of the grammar and syntax? Or start up some user-volunteer project where people can give suggestions to help make translations a bit more clean? I’d love to see a more perfect machine translation someday.

  19. Well… The russian version of this page looks funny :) For example, “this is great” has a sence of “IT is big” :) And so on…

  20. Great idea, but the translation (tried German) is the worst I have seen in a long time. There are various web sites that offer machine translation, and I think pretty much all of them are way better then the quality of this translation. Brilliant idea but currently unusable.

  21. Its nice but still is not quite right. In the example image posted in english it says “MIX09: Windows Mobile 6.5 shows more polish” and in the spanish translated version says something like “MIX09: Windows Mobile 6.5 shows more fingernails”.

    It will be an awesome time when those tecnologies finally get to their best level.

  22. yeah… just tried the German and Spanish translations as well. Sorry to say but the German translation is pretty much useless. I don’t see how people can say they get the meaning of an article. Just try the Windows Mobile Marketplace one in a translated version.

    Even funnier though are the translated comments.

  23. I too have to join the others. The Polish translation was extremely entertaining and I had a good laugh but then again it had nothing whatsoever to do with the original text and failed to convey even the general messages. Apart from working in IT, I happen to be an occasional translator and one thing that automated tools will always lack is the ability to understand a given text, something crucial and irreplaceable.

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