Google translate: Sports Journalism in any language

参加Google上海GTUG大会的参观证
Don’t be a Google Stranger (Image by Jacking.c via Flickr)

Amongst the marking and other stuff a few things have been pushing the ponder button. One of the the things was the recent updates to Google Translate.

Even if you haven’t used the tool itself you will have probably spotted the odd option to translate search results. If you use the Google Toolbar you may have even been surprised to be offered a version of the page you are reading in its original language.  It’s like a lot of things on the web these days, a background thing.

But I have been pondering it lately for two reasons. The first comes from the increased amount of contact I have working journalists who are getting to grips with using search tools and other online stuff in a more structured and journalistic way. Sitting in a room full of journos and seeing the mixture of awe and surprise at just what you can do with an IP address these days, for example,  just underlines how much of this stuff can pass you by if you don’t have a bit of headspace to explore.

The second is thinking about how, when training, I can make this as relevant to all the flavours of journalists I come across. It’s often the case that after a session of looking at searching council websites and the like, sports journos feel like there isn’t much in it for them. Most team websites have no RSS and the online presence for many official bodies is pretty slim. I get much the same from the Sports journalism students I teach.

Searching in another language

Of course, when you get on to community stuff, forums and blogs etc. some of the sports journos are pretty adept at finding and working with those communities. But I’m always on the look out for stuff for that search part of what I do that will peak their interest in the basic stuff which, I think, is really valuable. Google translate does just that.

Here’s an example picked at random.

The rumour mill throws up that Italian football coach and radio pundit Nevio Scala is pitching for the Scotland Manager’s job.

Interesting stuff. What’s this guy about then? We could push a few searches through Google:

Starting with  “Nevio Scala” or building on the search with information about his other clubs. e.g “Nevio Scala” +Parma or “Nevio Scala” +Spartak will turf up a lot. But it’s in English and this guy is Italian. So what do the Italians say about him?

We can push Google to search Italian sites by selecting Italian in the Language option of the advanced search. Which gives us some lovely results with the Translate This page option. Click there and we get translated results.

The language option in Googles advanced search
The language option in Googles advanced search

We can take that step further with Google’s Translated search option.

All you do is tell it what you are looking for, what language to search in and what language you speak. Then tell it which language you want to search in. The results are slightly easier to digest as you can see the options side by side. We can use the search to dig a little deeper.

A translated search from Google
A translated search from Google

Back to the Scala example. I want to delve in to the fan chat during his short spell at Spartak. Setting the results language to Russian means we can plug in a search like  Nevio Scala” Spartak OR Spartacus +forum and throw-up forum discussions around Scala on Russian football sites.

Of course doing this is not just limited to Sport. It’s not uncommon to find someone from your patch appears in the foreign press.  Take “meredith kercher” OR “Amanda Knox” as a  translated search in Italian as an example. But given the international impact of sports, especially as the world cup comes in to view and I think sports journos have plenty to play with here.

Translating from the Toolbar

For me though the real flexibility comes when you use the translate options in conjunction with the Google Toolbar.  By installing the toolbar you can translate pages on the fly.  That makes searching in another language a lot easier.

I tried the same search for “meredith kercher” OR “Amanda Knox” in Google news but with the location set to Italy.  All the results come up in Italian but a quick click of the translate button and I have a better idea of what I am looking at. Then I can continue browsing in (Googles best approximation of) english.

Using the pages

Using the toolbar translation also means you can take advantage of the basic functions on the page.

Google TranslateUsing the Nevio Scala” Spartak OR Spartacus +forum search I found a Spartak forum which I wanted to search for any mentions of Scala.  I could find the search box but sticking Scala in won’t work as it’s English not Russian cyrillic. So I used the Google translate tool to convert Nevio Scala in to Russian (Невио Скала) and went directly to the original Russian version of the football forum. The toolbar translate option converted the page in to english so finding the search box was easy. Then I plugged the Russian version in to the search box.  Bingo.

Ok, so the translation is pretty hokey sometimes and we need to be mindful of the different standards of journalism (legal and ethical) that we might encounter. But it’s a great opportunity to get a different perspective. I think this is especially important in sport. There is always the other team and if they happen to be from another country then it would seem a shame to miss their perspective.

The next step

The next step is to integrate some of this stuff in to your “passive aggressive newsgathering” by finding the best in foreign language sites and then using a site like Mloovi to translate the RSS feed. Then you really are doing international journalism.

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