Arabic Culture

“Bridge” Breaks Language Barrier on Social Media

The main goal of “Bridge” is to open new channels of communication that transcend language and cultural divisions on the World Wide Web.

If technology and the internet have transformed our world into a large global village, we are still living in cells set by language, the oldest barrier of communication. Although many applications, programs, and electronic dictionaries seek to mitigate such problem, they are rarely accurate in accomplishing the required task.

This shortcoming is precisely the challenge that “Bridge” by “Maydan” tries to overcome. Such organization was established in 2006 by Ed Pace to provide technology that serves sharing ideas, discussions and information across different languages. The organization includes a global team of technology and language designers and experts from four different countries (Canada, the United States, Brazil and Egypt).

“The idea started when “Maydan” was translating the content of the internet and social media from Arabic into English during the Arab Spring by adapting tools available on the internet but not developed for the purpose of translation. At the time, there was a need for a dedicated application to translate the content of the internet.” says Noha Dawood, a Project Manager at “Maydan”.

She further states, “The main driver behind the idea of “Bridge” was the need to understand the content published on the internet in languages other than English. Therefore, it was necessary to translate the content so that internet users, who don’t speak such language, could understand the same and follow the current events.”

What is “Bridge”? Noha Dawood answers, “It is an application that enables rapid translation of the content on social media with the addition of important cultural, social and political notes to facilitate understanding of translation using intelligent tools such as dictionaries.” Therefore, “Bridge” is not just a translation tool. In short, “Bridge” is designed to enable translators to quickly and accurately translate small texts by improving the user’s experience and providing simple tools such as machine translation and dictionaries.

How does “Bridge” work?

Noha Dawood says, ““Maydan” is developing an application for iPhone and also a browser extension.” She also adds, “Some translators prefer to work on their computers and use the browser extension, while others prefer to use smart phones for translation and therefore prefer the application.”

Translation of social media content into different languages is a growing business

Regardless of the means, you can write a small text on “Bridge” which sends the same to a translator who translates the text and sends it to an editor, if necessary. Finally, you will get an accurate translation of your text. It should be noted that the best translations involve a variety of skills such as editing, grammar and spelling. Thus, “Bridge” helps translators to collaborate with each other highlighting their individual contributions.

Since the main goal of “Bridge” is to open new channels of communication that transcend language and cultural divisions on the internet, all contents can be shared and are designed to be seamless as if you share the same in your native language on social media.

Currently, “Bridge” is still a trial version. Noha Dawood gives us the latest developments, “at this stage, we have many projects, but we focus on translation at conferences on human rights and crises of refugee camps and needs, as our team is trying to facilitate communication between aid workers and refugees.”

Noha adds, “Most translations are from English to Arabic and vice versa. Translators are from different countries of the world such as Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt, and they have volunteered to complete such task.”

“Bridge” is tested by partners of “Maydan” that are keen to evaluate and review it and help the team develop it based on the results of operation. Noha Dawood stresses that any person or institution interested in participating in the application test or joining as a partner should simply communicate with the team.

For example, she mentions “Bridge for Crisis”, an initiative to translate into Arabic tweets on refugee issues using “Bridge Application” and she states, “With the help of a group of volunteer translators, 10 to 15 tweets about news of refugee camp and needs were translated a day.” She also indicates that all translations are posted on Twitter @bridgeforcrisis.

Speaking of such partnerships, Noha Dawood continues, “We also began a partnership with the “Access Now” team, organizer of “Rice Kun” (one of the world’s largest human rights and technology conferences) and Global Voices to momentarily cover the conference for non-English speakers and then translate English coverage into Arabic, Spanish and French.”

However, partnerships alone are not enough, but feedback from translators is more important. “After this conference, we met with translators to get information about their experiences in the direct Tweeting process and the use of the application. A testimony from a volunteer translator from English to Spanish was among the most notable opinions, as she said, “I think it was a great experience. The application facilitates the process of translating tweets.” Noha Dawood explains.

Noha also says, “I think this effort is very important in order for information, resources and conversations in such type of event to be available to a greater number of people in their own languages. However. I think it is important to highlight translation efforts and Twitter accounts on which translations will be published, in addition to giving organizations and people participating in events access to the same so that they can also share the content on their Twitter pages.”

Noha Dawood does not hesitate to say, “Like any software being developed, we consider how to make “Bridge” application as easy to use as possible. For us, it is important that translators can perform their task with as little effort as possible, in addition to providing the largest possible assistance (such as integration of a dictionary and machine translation) in the application. In this way, “Bridge” can provide reliable translations.

The application is still in the pilot phase and “Maydan” team is trying to improve the application based on the feedback from partners and users. Further, they are developing an application for Android and they hope to launch “Bridge” for all internet users in the near future.

Finally, Noha indicates that the final version of “Bridge” should be the best version so that the application can easily be used by any group interested in translating a particular content on social media.

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