I’m writing this in a busy tea shop in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle. Tomorrow, the kids and I get on the 11.5 hour flight to Japan to kick off our three month tour of Asia. Since none of us are even remotely fluent in Japanese, Chinese, (or Korean, or Thai…) communication is very much on my mind.
Modern translation sites like Google Translate are amazing, but the resulting translations aren’t always perfect. They tend to require a generous amount of understanding on the part of the receiver. But if you don’t know the target language, how do you ensure that your message is getting across?
Enter circular translation. My thought was this: any message that can survive the round-trip from source language to the target language back to the source language is probably pretty clear to the recipient. I tested my theory out with Spanish (which I know well enough to grade the translated message). I opened two browser windows, one from English -> Spanish and the other from Spanish -> English. I would write and translate my message in the first window, then copy the translation to the second window to see how it stood up.
What I found was that subtly (or not-so-subtly) rewording my initial message made a big difference in the resulting translation. The process was a winner, but the manual cutting-and-pasting was a royal PITA. Once again, software to the rescue!
There is a Google Translate API, so I spent part of my day yesterday writing a GCloud application that takes a source message and automatically translates it to the target language and back again. Once you get the hang of it, it works really, really well. I went shopping in my large and eclectic list of domain names and decided that this thing would be called padagong.com. Give it a try and let me know what you think!