Best practice around machine translation for international audience


(Olivier Le Pord) #1

I am part of the community management team at Autodesk. We’ve had an online community for a couple decades now. Most of our forums are in English and get the majority of the traffic worldwide. We also have a non Engl section with 8 other languages, each having their own community management and separate boards.

According to our research, the visits TO the English boards coming FROM non Engl speaking countries represent a significant proportion of the total.

In order to facilitate the consumption of English content by non Engl native speakers, we are considering putting a widget of sorts on the threads that would allow members to read in their own language. It is not necessarily a tool to search for content in a language other than English, nor would it be to facilitate posting by non Engl native (at least I don’t think so).

We already do a significant amount of business worldwide with many localized product and have a vast database of specialized words that would be fed into the process. But this would remain machine translated content - with the appropriate expectations, especially considering a “community conversational” type of English.

Does anyone have an experience with this approach? Any studies to point to? Positive of not so positive?


So, what are you working on?
(Richard Millington) #2

I think it’s safe to say that this question has pretty much stumped us all?

Anyone got any good ideas?


(Bas van Leeuwen) #3

I honestly don’t think that this will lead to more community involvement. It might be good for readership and SEO.

Stackoverflow decided to launch a separate community in Portugese, from their announcement:

It’s almost impossible to feel like part of a community if you’re not highly proficient in the language. Even non-native speakers who are fluent enough to read posts in their second or third languages often aren’t comfortable enough to write in them.

That said, I can imagine (but I have no facts to back me up) that many of your non-english members either already use something like Chrome’s auto translate, or are more proficient in reading English than Google Translate is.


(Jeffrey Otterspoor) #4

I think the first step has to be finding out why non-native English speaking countries visit those boards. Are they being forwarded through search results, links or are they going their manually and on purpose?


(Olivier Le Pord) #5

Good point. In terms of engagement, I don’t expect more posts just because of this widget. But I would hope for some more minor forms of engagement that don’t require any writing like give kudos or accept as a solution, voting up or down on product suggestions.

In fact, this would be targeted at lurkers, to facilitate content consumption. Even though active sustained engagement is what we all want, I think that people who are solving their problems by reading some of our posts is a legitimate use of our community. Therefore, facilitate this for non Engl native speakers (or readers…) and widening the circle of people who can get help like this is worth considering.

I agree that feeling part of the community if you are not highly proficient in a specific language is unlikely. From what I can see, only a fraction of our members come to experience this feeling of community (as described by Chavis and McMillan - The psychological sense of community). I think that many of our new members are joining to solve a problem. And many stay at this level. Only a minority evolves into a deeper commitment.

I’ll have to dig a bit deeper into the use of google translate for us. I already did some research on our community about this and I should share some of the findings with you all. Far from complete but it could trigger further thinking.


(Olivier Le Pord) #6

Lots of search results. But the actual search keywords and why they land on our boards is trickier to determine. Their location, search history, whether logged in on google or not, etc. Many variables…


(Bas van Leeuwen) #7

If you’re going to take the effort to implement this, I would make sure that the translated results are also indexed by Google. Chances are quite high that people are searching in their native language.


(Olivier Le Pord) #8

Ah… Yes. Need to look into this. Thx!


(Sarah Hawk) #9

Google’s Translate Community Program Manager @mniu has very recently joined us here and may have insight to add here.