Giving hints to automatic translators

One problem with machine translation is that machines don’t know when to stop translating. For example Yahoo’s Babel Fish translator translates my last name “Cook” literally to “Cocinero” in Spanish and “Cuisinier” in French.

Today Google announced a way to tell its translator that text should not be translated. Place such text inside a <span> tag with the attribute class="notranslate". I tried this on a web page that explained that a certain piece of code printed out “Hello world.” Since “Hello world” is literal output, it should be left untranslated, not turned into, for example, “Bonjour le monde.” The solution was to modify the HTML to say

The code above prints &ldquo;<span class="notranslate">Hello world</span>.&rdquo;

To prevent an entire page from being translated, add the following tag in the <head> section of the page.

<meta name="google" value="notranslate">

I suppose other machine translation efforts, such as those from Microsoft and Yahoo, will follow Google’s lead and support the class=notranslate directive.

2 thoughts on “Giving hints to automatic translators

  1. >I suppose other machine translation efforts, such as those from Microsoft and Yahoo, will follow Google’s lead and support the class=notranslate directive.

    Call me cynical, but my guess would be that Microsoft would implement its own notranslate directive, make it incompatible with W3C compliant code, and make it easy to use from Internet Explorer.

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