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Sail-World.com goes multilingual

by Jeni Bone on 19 Feb 2013
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Sail-World.com is the largest sailing news network in the world, with an audience last year of over 2.2 million readers across 13 marine sites. But for all of its 16 years, its content – some 106,000 stories – have all been viewable only in English, although it has readers in 40+ countries.

To this point, most non-English speaking sailors looking at sailing news worldwide use generic automated foreign language translation. While this service improves all the time, it still falls well short of a fluent human translator, who is also a sailor.

The barriers to smooth translation have been the sailing jargon like traveller, sheet, boom etc, which have mainstream uses that are totally different from the sailing terms, as well as the hundreds of technical words just not found in common language dictionaries.

Working on this project for almost two years, Sail-world.com has added over 900 sailing and general marine words and phrases into Google translation table glossaries, which have sailor verified translations for Spanish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Dutch and some limited amounts of Greek and Turkish.

So the ‘traveller’ should not come out as a ‘tourist’ or the ‘boom’ come out as a ‘loud noise’, or a ‘control line’ become a ‘bed sheet’!

Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Hindi and Japanese will be the next languages, although for those the initial word lists will be shorter, but they will improve over time.

Those 15 languages used in over 140 countries will represent more than 90% of all the sailors worldwide.

Heading up this project is Sail-World´s Technical Editor, Jedda Murphy, an Irish born IT nerd who speaks fluent Spanish and French.

Jedda commented today: 'The Sail-World team is very proud of the detailed translation table glossaries it has loaded into the translation system, but this is just the start of an ongoing process of improvement.

'To continue great work done by so many marine industry contributors, sailors will be able to advise of any incorrect terminology so that the sailing language glossary can be corrected, after verification.

'Additionally, Sail-World will be talking to National Sailing Authorities and sailors prepared to help us extend the glossaries in the existing languages sets and provide glossaries in other languages.'

'The translation function went active last night and it is in place for all current and future stories. It’s not yet available for our newsletter archives but those areas will be covered shortly.

'As Sail-World has 106,000+ stories in its news database stretching back to 1997, it’s going to take some time to add that feature to the archival content of the sites.

Of course, the automated translation, even with all our best work is still going to be clunky, compared to having a human translation but as we run some 2000 stories a month output in even 15 launguages would be 30,000 translation hours a month, which is plainly impossible.

'But we feel this is a major step forward in the dissemination of marine news for sailors world-wide and with the active assistance of sailing peak bodies around the world, the quality of the translations will continue to improve.'
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