Transfluent: tweeting in tongues

September 14th, 2011 by

microtask_transfluentExtreme stunt group The Dudesons are one of Finland’s biggest exports. These four death-defying maniacs have a long-running, widely-broadcast TV show specializing in stunts so stupidly dangerous they make Jackass look safety-conscious. The Dudesons have many talents (like still being able to move without wheelchairs), but even their biggest fans would admit the guys aren’t exactly “intellectuals”. So recently, followers were surprised and impressed when Dudeson member Jukka Hilden suddenly began to tweet in fluent Spanish. Were the Dudesons secretly sneaking off to night school? Did they accidentally slingshot themselves all the way to Barcelona? Not quite. In fact the group has been taking advantage of a unique new crowdsourced service: Transfluent.

French connections
Transfluent offers near real-time, professional translation of social media feeds and websites. Back in April, we featured a guest post by Transfluent (then called PremiumFanPage) founder Jani Penttinen. More recently, we decided to give Transfluent a try.

First, of course, we had to choose a language to translate to. Apparently, the Dudesons opted for Spanish because they have a large fan-base in Latin America (it’s amazing how eye-watering self-inflicted pain transcends cultural boundaries). In the end, we decided to go with French as it’s widely spoken and because the French often seem less willing to use English than some other Europeans.

The result? All our Twitter content @microtask gets immediately translated and reposted to the French account. Jani explains: “Before Transfluent it was almost impossible to translate Twitter messaging as it required too much work and traditional translation agencies are too slow. Our fast response times are due to crowdsourcing: all our translations are crowdsourced from networks of professional translators.”

Thanks to this linguistically gifted crowd, Microtask can now effortlessly tweet in two languages. C’est magnifique, non?

Breaking the language barrier
Over the last couple of years, the crowdsourced translation of social networking sites has been a major (very well-publicized) success story. Thanks to the efforts of thousands of users, Twitter and Facebook are now available in dozens of languages. However, in Europe at least, the vast majority of people still tweet exclusively in English. As Jani said, this means that “English Twitter is already quite saturated marketplace, but all the other languages have a lot of users but not so much interesting material to follow.”

In this “Twitter vacuum”, well-targeted translation can give companies (and TV stunt-groups) a real social networking boost. Our own experience certainly supports the theory. @microtask_fr has already gained thousands of users. French speakers now make up about 1/3 of our total Twitter following. (Of course, we like to think this is due to our witty, well-articulated tweets, rather than because there’s nothing else worth reading.)

Real-time tweet translation is more than just another crowdsourcing novelty. Potentially, it’s an easy, simple and relatively cheap way for companies to increase their “global web presence”. And as we (and the Dudesons) have discovered while working with Transfluent, everyone appreciates it when you’re tweeting in their language.