Twitter Kills Auto-Translate Feature, Makes it Harder for You to Read Tweets

Twitter Kills Auto-Translate Feature, Makes it Harder for You to Read Tweets Web Publishing Twitter has quietly removed Bing translation from its mobile apps and web platform. The feature had first shown up in May in Tweetdeck, and was added to Twiiter's iOS and Android apps in June.

There's been no announcement from Twitter to explain the change, but users have been commenting on the change for a few days now:

I don't know about you but I'm not surprised to see it go; this was a feature which was never going to work well. A 140 character tweet simply isn't long enough to provide enough context for an auto-translate function.(Sure, a person can do it, but we're talking computers here.)

An auto-translate feature works well with longer pieces of text: articles, press releases, and blog posts. It doesn't work so well with abbreviations, slang, text-speak, and other informal language.

I've never used the Bing Translation in Twitter, but a few years ago I helped beta test an independent project to offer a similar feature. That project was based on Google Translate, and not Bing, and it proved less than successful. I eventually gave up on it because so many of the tweets were unintelligible; too much of the context was lost in translation.

I do still translate the occasional tweet, but in my experience I have often had to ask for a second translation from an actual person before I was sure that I understood the tweet.

Did anyone use the Bing translate feature? How well did it work?

TNW

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: He's here to chew bubble gum and fix broken websites, and he is all out of bubble gum. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills at the drop of a hat. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

17 Comments

  1. rogXue8 August, 2014

    used it and loved it. Sucks that it’s gone…

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder8 August, 2014

      I’ve read a number of comments to this effect on Twitter. It’s making me regret not having tried it.

      Reply
  2. puzzled8 August, 2014

    “I eventually gave up on it because so many of the tweets were unintelligible”

    Doesn’t this describe most of the tweets anyway, regardless of the language?

    Reply
  3. Alan8 August, 2014

    I used it a lot. My son is a bicycle racer and many of his races are in Europe and the tweets are how I follow the races. I’ll miss the translation feature.

    Reply
  4. Moriah Jovan9 August, 2014

    I follow bullfighting, so yeah, I used it a lot.

    Reply
  5. Annon9 August, 2014

    The strangest and creepiest thing happened as I was using translate before it was shut down.
    With all the conflicts going on now, many users were using Twitter to relay information to their followers and some would swap between English and their own language.
    I did notice, as I was following the updates on the current conflict in Gaza [must faster than the media updates], following those Palestinians who supposedly work in humanitarian roles, i.e. in hospitals, tweeting in Arabic and a couple of instances I used translate to read what they were writing, and the creepiest event unfolded when one of them tweeted about a rocket heading to a location in Israel. I thought I was hallucinating when I read it, but fifteen to twenty minutes later, the media was reporting about it as well and mentioned the same location.
    It made me shut down my Twitter account and altered my perspective on the Gaza situation with respect to the fact that rockets are being launched from certain hospitals.
    Since that day, or a day after, I noticed translate was nowhere to be found. I thought it was something wrong with my account. Obviously not. So I am now wondering if it’s a case of Twitter shutting translate down for other reasons.

    Reply
    1. Laila9 August, 2014

      I agree I think it was shut down to stop the ease of communication during the gaza conflict.

      Reply
    2. Moriah Jovan9 August, 2014

      Man, I never thought of that, but you’ve probably hit the nail on the head.

      Reply
  6. Keishon10 August, 2014

    I used it to read posts from Rome for artwork related tweets but on the whole it was a very useful feature.

    Reply
  7. Nate Hoffelder10 August, 2014

    After reading the comments here I think I should switch from Google to Bing for my translation needs.

    Over the past few days I have gotten garbled tweets out of Google Translate, while commenters are swearing by Bing. I’m going to need to look into Bing and see if it is better.

    Reply
  8. Indy15 August, 2014

    I really liked the auto-translate feature. It was a good tool for easily increasing a foreign vocabulary, but it had big problems translating German to English, because it often could not deal with the German language’s important trailing verb. Typically this meant “without” & “not” was omitted, which radically changed the meaning of the statements and would be dangerous for anyone relying upon the veracity of the translation. It was amusing to people like me, who are looking to progress their language proficiency tweet by tweet and already understand the structural significance of German verb placement, so can check if it didn’t just turn the meaning of the statement on it’s head.

    Reply
    1. Nate Hoffelder15 August, 2014

      Google Translate has a similar problem. And yes, it is fun to check and see if the meaning of a sentence was reversed. What’s even funnier is that sometimes I don’t notice because there’s not enough context.

      Reply
  9. Scarsnbumble16 August, 2014

    I used auto-translate a lot as I am learning Spanish and it’s a pain that it’s disappeared. Now I have to cut and paste into Google Translate. Thankfully, there are phone apps which have a translate feature.

    Reply
  10. aaron24 August, 2014

    Very sad to see the translate feature go. I used the translate feature all the time while following world events, especially in the Ukraine, Russia, and South America. Yes, the translations weren’t always perfect, but they were almost always good enough to give me the gist of what was said and for news articles from there I could decide if I wanted translate a linked news story.

    Reply
  11. Vimes22 September, 2014

    I used it to talk to friends from across the globe & to read their tweets. For what I needed it for it work perfectly (mostly) & created lots of laughs when it got it completely wrong 😉

    Why not still have it there, & users could CHOOSE to use it or not. Isn’t that whats important? The users?

    BRING IT BACK!! It’s not perfect, but it was perfect for me!

    Reply
  12. Mike22 September, 2014

    Agree completely Vimes! Yes it wasn’t perfect but it was a heck of a lot better than nothing! Hope they bring it back.

    Reply
  13. […] Translator integration was added in July 2013 but was unexpectedly removed in August 2014. I can't speak as to how it worked before, but now when twitterati encounter a tweet in a foreign […]

    Reply

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