Facebook launches its own universal translator

The social network has rolled out a new tool that can translate comments found on public pages into your native language.

Lance Whitney/CNET

Those of you who'd like to read Facebook pages written in a foreign language now have a way to translate posts and comments into your native tongue.

Using the translation tools of Microsoft's Bing, the social-networking site is now offering an inline tool that will translate posts made on public Facebook pages into the language indicated in your profile.

As described by the company, public pages written in a different language will display a "Translate" link next to each post or comment. Clicking on that link converts the post into your own language. Clicking on the "Original" link reverts the post back to its native language.

Facebook is also tapping into the power of crowdsourcing to improve the machine-based translations. When you click on the Translate link, a small pop-up window appears inviting you to offer a more accurate translation if you think you know better than Bing. After enabling the inline translation tool, you can right-click on the post and type your own translation into a text field. If your translation gets enough positive votes from other users, it could replace the Bing translation.

I tested the feature with some pages in Italian, Spanish, and French, and it worked smoothly for the most part. Of course, as with any machine translation, some of the translated text sounded a bit stilted, but I was able to get the gist of each comment.

This new universal translator works only on public pages, not on personal profiles.

About the author

Journalist, software trainer, and Web developer Lance Whitney writes columns and reviews for CNET, Computer Shopper, Microsoft TechNet, and other technology sites. His first book, "Windows 8 Five Minutes at a Time," was published by Wiley & Sons in November 2012.

 

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