Friday, August 22, 2008

Translation Technologies in Second Life

I was really thrilled to find the "Simbolic Translator" in Second Life ( Simbolic Translator: About ten years ago, I worked with Lou Spaventa at Santa Barbara City College to help him use a MUD (text based virtual worlds) to participate in the United Nation's World Youth Day. We had people who were learning English from around the world all meeting in various "rooms." The rooms were listed by country and it was really eye-opening because we thought that all of the French people would be in the "France" room, etc. But it was much more dynamic and evolved that than. There were a lot of Egyptians and Israelis talking for instance, it became very political but all very positive. In a single day, a lot of friendships were made and email penpals made. It was a fascinating process. Lou Spaventa is an extremely dynamic and intelligent person. The technology, though, was a lot for him - probably most of us. It was very sophisticated for its time and Lou found it all very stressful. I see this all the time. The technology changes but our relationship to technology doesn't seem to change. It can be very stressful - it is new, complicated, resource-heavy, and you have to trust that a lot of people really know what they are doing to really make it work. And failure has to be an option. People today would probably laugh at that technology: terminal programs all logging in to a single server.

Anyway, in Second Life there is this program that will translate any text in and out of about 22 languages. It handles Asian, Slavic, Greek, Arabic and pretty much all of the romance languages. I have used it to communicate with Asian and French people and have invited some to participate in some of our projects at Evergreen Island. I think it is time to revisit an idea like "World Youth Day" but change it to something like "World Student Day" to include the wide-variety of ages that are represented in education. I wound up giving the creator of Simbolic Translator a thousand lindens which is about $5 American in Second Life. The creator, Tragix Wilder, made a big deal about my donation but I have paid for things in SL that did a tenth as much and work like his really deserves recognition.

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