Translating articles with Wikibhasha

The up-to-date article on the recent earthquake in Japan is a testament of Wikipedia’s ability to help bring together people from around the world to produce something useful – and fast! At the time of writing this post, the English version of this article is already being translated into a mind-boggling figure of over 48 unique languages! A tool that may perhaps makes this translation effort a bit faster – Wikibhasha from Microsoft Research.

According to it’s website, the name Wikibhasha was derived from a combination of “Wiki” (the tech behind Wikipedia, representing collaboration) and “Bhasha” meaning “language” in Sanskrit-based languages such as Hindi. See the FAQ here.

What I love about this tool is that it requires no downloads, and so no installs. It is mainly in the form of a browser bookmark (better known as a “Bookmarklet”), which also means that it works inside your browser (according to the FAQ – supports IE7 and 8 on Windows XP onwards and Firefox 3.5+ on Windows or Linux Fedora 11/12).  Oh and did I mention that it requires is that you have a Wikipedia account (wha? Not hotmail/ MSN? Are we sure this is MICROSOFT research?) :-D

Anyway, here’s how you use the tool

  1. You start by selecting an article on the English version of Wikipedia. Actually you start by viewing that article – even before you start by using this tool. It might be a good idea to login to wikipedia at this stage (don’t have an account, create one – it’s simple and free).
  2. Once you start this tool, it lets you select the language you are translating to. I was actually looking for Marathi, but settled with Hindi. It should also tell you whether the article you are translating to already exists

    wikibhasha1
  3. This should take you to a new or the existing page on your language-specific Wikipedia. Click on the bookmark again – and wait for Microsoft magic to unfold!

    wikibhasha2

    Notice that on the top you can see a progress bar as Microsoft translation translates the original content (left hand pane) into your own language (the right-hand pane). Remember, this translation is done by a software somewhere on the internet (ok, at microsofttranslator.com) and is bound to have quite a few inconsistencies in it. Here’s where you come in.
  4. Once the translator has done it’s job, you step in and make any changes you feel are necessary. Remember, you can use multiple English articles to get material translated into your language-specific article (play around, it’s not hard to guess how).
  5. Once you are happy with what you’ve got. Simply hit submit and you should find your changes saved to the Wikipedia article. It’s that simple!

So in summary, all the tool does it:

  • Let you select one or more English articles
  • Translate the content from English into one of the supported languages
  • Let you bulk-transfer or selectively transfer this translation into the language Wikipedia page.
  • Let you make any changes to the automatically translated text (HIGHLY RECOMMENDED).
  • And finally, save the changes to Wikipedia.

It gets easier if you are already experienced at editing Wikipedia articles before. If you aren’t I would suggest first starting with hand-editing small and simple articles directly on Wikipedia before you start using this tool.

Of course, I would see myself using this tool a lot more than I already am should it support my own native language – Marathi. But, all in all, it is a wonderful and easy-to-use tool. Again, if you are someone who edits Wikipedia articles, I would certainly recommend giving it a try.

Here’s a small overview video from the makers of this tool

Wikibhasha–a quick introduction.

[Wikibhasha Home Page]