Google and YouTube Are Racing Forward in Translation (but the Finish Line Is Staying Ahead)

As the online community continues to grow, more and more languages are coming online, and power players like Google and its subsidiary YouTube are speeding ahead to keep up. Here are some of the numbers that illustrate this:

  • “To reach 90% of the world’s internet users required at least 19 languages in 2009 and 2010. In 2012, marketers will need 21 languages to achieve that mark. To hit 95%, the number of languages required has jumped from 27 to 34. Finally, to reach 98%, the number rocketed from 37 to 48.”

(Benjamin Sargent, “ROI Lifts the Long Tail of Languages in 2012,” Common Sense Advisory, June 26, 2012)

  • Google Translate currently works between 64 languages.
  • Over 92% of its more than 200 million monthly users come from outside the US.
  • “In a given day we translate roughly as much text as you’d find in 1 million books.”

(Franz Och, “Breaking Down the Language Barrier—Six Years In,” Official Google Blog, April 26, 2012)

  • “Sixty percent of all video views on Google-owned YouTube come from users who select a language other than English as the site’s display language”

(Janko Roettgers, “Most Youtube Views Come from Non-English Users,” GigaOM, November 3, 2011)

And now YouTube has launched a new interface to help in translating its videos into over 300 languages. The first step is to upload a transcript or caption file. Then the next step is to use the translation feature in the YouTube Video Manager to create a translation or invite other online users to help out. For the 64 languages available using Google’s machine translation technology, YouTube will provide a “first draft” to jump start the process. The interface also allows for translation into the 300 plus languages available in the Google Translator Toolkit.

(Jeff Chin and Brad Ellis, “Build a Global Audience on YouTube by Translating Your Captions,” Creators: The Official YouTube Partners & Creators Blog, September 24, 2012)

Those of you who have used Google’s translator in the past will know that the first draft of the translation may be a good starting point, but it will probably need quite a bit of tweaking. If you’re really brave, you can start with YouTube’s automatic captioning, which currently creates onscreen captions for English and Spanish, generating the text from the audio. (Access this feature by clicking the “cc” button at the bottom of the video viewer.) Google admits that all of this is a work in progress, and it often produces humorous results. Take a look at the video below to see Rhett and Link use YouTube for a modern take on the telephone (or gossip) game:

If you do need to create multi-language subtitles for a video project, and you find limitations in YouTube’s approach, take a look at dotSUB and Amara for more options.

[photo: “Race Hard,” by velo_city, used under a Creative Commons license]