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New English/Arabic Translation Site Hopes To Promote Citizen Diplomacy 206

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the but-who-will-the-government-villainize-then dept.
Wired has mention of a new site that hopes to encourage a grassroots "citizen diplomacy" movement by combining English/Arabic translation software with a Facebook-style meeting place. "Meedan, which officially launches Monday, lets users post stories and comments in English and have them automatically translated into Arabic, or the opposite. People who don’t share a common language can have an online discussion in near real time. The name, appropriately, means 'gathering place' or 'town hall'; in Arabic. Think of it as a social network filled with people you don't know, but want to understand."
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New English/Arabic Translation Site Hopes To Promote Citizen Diplomacy

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  • by Chas (5144) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:47PM (#31236540) Homepage Journal

    First post!

  • by MaskedSlacker (911878) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:49PM (#31236582)

    ...what could possibly go wrong?

    • by spun (1352) <loverevolutionaryNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:51PM (#31236632) Journal

      Do you want to come back to my place, bouncy bouncy?

    • by $RANDOMLUSER (804576) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:57PM (#31236762)

      Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

      How many different ways do you suppose there are to say "infidel"?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Tetsujin (103070)

        Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.

        How many different ways do you suppose there are to say "infidel"?

        Derka derka, Mohammed Jihad!

      • Yeah, I would have to agree. Giving the likes of 4chan a more direct communication mode to pretty much anyone could only lead to trouble....
    • by flaming error (1041742) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:07PM (#31236982) Journal

      My first reaction was that this was a great idea, to let disparate peoples meet and try to understand each other.

      But now I see you're right - after meeting our teabaggers and treehuggers all they'll walk away with is that americans are generally barbaric assholes and ignorant wimps.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      My nipples are exploding with delight!

    • 4chan trolling for lulz + Nuclear Iran?

      I recommend one of two quite distinct strategies:

      Option one: full survivalcore mode. Stockpile MREs and ammo in your fortified Montana homestead and prepare to fight off hordes of starving exurban refugees and eventual supermutants.

      Option two: Fuck it. Consult the mapping service of your choice to find a nice bar(with rooftop option if the weather suits), located in a major population center and near as many strategic targets as possible. Drink until you see t
    • ...what could possibly go wrong?

      Actually, there IS the possibility that due to a translation error, some people could be offended by the resulting statements. We should probably have an open, mature dialogue in advance with the Arab world about how cultural differences are not necessarily evil, just different, and they could discuss their values so we could take those into account when communicating, and we could pledge to respect those. That way, when such translation errors come up, both sides will realize that no offense was meant,

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        Other than that, I can't think of anything that will go wrong with a productive exchange via Internet.

        The keyword here being "productive".

        I'm sure you have some way of guaranteeing that the exchange via Internet will be "productive", and not a lot of name-calling by both sides?

        Note that what a Syrian might consider "productive" is likely to be quite different than what an Iranian would consider "productive", much less than an American would consider "productive".

        And god help us all if the translation pro

        • I'm sure you have some way of guaranteeing that the exchange via Internet will be "productive", and not a lot of name-calling by both sides?

          Man, I really thought the sarcasm was so thick in my post that no one would mistake it for seriousness.

          No, I don't, I'm pretty sure this will start and end with trolling and misguided proselytizing on both sides, having accomplished nothing other than possibly some death threats. You know, just as all other interactions on the internet, and all interactions between the arab world and the west tend to be.

        • by Larryish (1215510)
          After spending the past few months trying to hire a lead man who isn't lazy, idiotic, or drug-addicted, I believe that most Americans wouldn't know "productive" if it "produced" right in their faces.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        That's a beautiful idea.

        Before taking it international, I recommend you cut your teeth on a more modest goal. You might start by introducing tolerance, respect and understanding among more geographically united people that already speak a common language, say, on the message boards of Yahoo or youTube.

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:51PM (#31236636) Homepage Journal
    So we have a service designed from the start to attract internet trolls from one end and propaganda ministries from the other. What could possibly go wrong?

    I like the concept, but the real world is going to interfere with the execution.
    • by zappepcs (820751)

      Yes, just one mention and 4chan will be eerily silent for about 14 minutes while meedan servers burst into flames

    • by skelly33 (891182) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:04PM (#31236932)
      Agreed - it's idealism turned unrealism if you think you can take diametrically opposing views and plop them in front of a translation system to breed collaboration, open dialog, compassion, and understanding. I opened a political debate forum years ago with a similar hope: that opposing sides would find common ground through irrefutable factual analysis. While there are a handful of open-minded individuals out there who enjoy this concept, the majority are highly slanted, bull-headed, and offensive and want only to start a fight. I've maintained since then that the people most in need of revolutionary thinking are the ones who are completely unreachable thus making it a wasted effort. Good luck, but don't hold your breath.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by vxice (1690200)
        You could always just get to know an arab. They are all over the place. There is also lots of information on why there are cross cultural problems, its a thing called research.
      • by bobobobo (539853)
        Yep, like the saying goes:

        "You can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves into."

      • Agreed - it's idealism turned unrealism if you think you can take diametrically opposing views and plop them in front of a translation system to breed collaboration, open dialog, compassion, and understanding.

        Huh? Why do you assume that arabic speakers and english speakers have "diametrically opposing views?"

        I think you'd be surprised at just how much people have in common. Sure there are issues on which groups have a tendency to disagree (IMHO mostly promulgated by their respective propaganda outlets so each has only a piece of the whole story) but for the most part, people are people regardless of what country they live in and thus have many more common experiences than differences.

        • Assuming Arabic means Islam, and non-Arabic means either Christian or Atheist...

          Muslims believe they have a duty to kill somebody who leaves the faith. See the "Aposty in Islam" wikipedia article if you are clueless about this. There are a dozen countries where the government actually imposes the death penalty for leaving Islam.

          Seriously, WTF? How can any Christian or Atheist respect such an evil load of shit?

          Then there is the matter of democracy being considered immoral because it suggests that man can mak

    • I like the concept, but the real world is going to interfere with the execution.

      Let's hope it can interfere with a few executions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by hey! (33014)

      I wanted to see just how inadvisable something like this was. So I sent a whole passel of George Bush quotes through Google's English to Arabic translator, then took the translation and fed it back through the Arabic to English translator, looking for cases where the sense of the words might be disastrously mangled. Immediately, this example popped out:

      The truth in this matter is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power if he was president of the United States and the world would be better off.

      Now going back to the original text, what Bush actually said was ...

      Oh.

      Never mind.

    • I'd like to think they might cancel each other out and the world becomes a better place.

      Yeah. I know. May I dream once in a while, too?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by NeoSkandranon (515696)

      The funny part about your statement is that it doesn't matter which way is which.

    • So we have a service designed from the start to attract internet trolls from one end and propaganda ministries from the other. What could possibly go wrong?

      You'll finally notice that the US does have "propaganda ministries", and they will show us their best trolls?

    • So we have a service designed from the start to attract internet trolls from one end and propaganda ministries from the other. What could possibly go wrong?

      Oh, nothing could ever go wrong - after all, there's an automated translator! People who can talk to each other never fight after all.

  • by Yvan256 (722131) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:53PM (#31236692) Homepage Journal

    Arabic numerals?

  • Babelfish? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:55PM (#31236736)

    Apparently they haven't read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" [wikipedia.org] on the side effects of the Babelfish.

    Good luck, though.

  • Among Arabic speakers who have access to the internet in the first place, the proportion who know at least basic English is quite high. There are plenty of barriers to understanding and agreement, but I'm not sure I would rate a literal inability to communicate as the main one.

    • by Chicken_Kickers (1062164) on Monday February 22, 2010 @08:22PM (#31238660)
      Sure. But how many native English speakers speak Arabic? You are making the assumption that the translation site is for the benefit of the Arabs but have you considered that it is actually more for you Westerners. We non-Westerners (I'm a Malaysian Muslim) have had a lot of exposure to your Western culture, values and language. In Malaysia, English is a compulsory subject at school but we certainly did not learn it for your benefit. After more than 30 years of life, I have not found much to be gained from your Western values, culture and your vapid mindless "entertainment" that my people are so fond of aping. Maybe it is you Westerners who should take the effort to learn about other cultures to avoid being so easily mind controlled by your politician's xenophobic propaganda. P.s. to those of you who are making anti-Iran jokes: the Iranians speak Farsi, not Arabic, you dolt!
      • Ah, but you put forth a good counterexample as to why familiarity will not necessarily breed understanding. Despite many years of contact with foreign cultures, you still have a xenophobic, nationalist view of them, in which you see the foreign values as degenerate and unworthy, in contrast to your own culture's quality values.

      • Also if we are trying to show off our intellect we would say Iranians speak Persian not Farsi. Just like the Germans speak German not Deutsch.
      • the Iranians speak Farsi, not Arabic, you dolt!

        Correct, but most Muslims speak Arabic as a second language if it isn't their first, what with the Qu'ran being written in Arabic, and it being the language of the afterlife, etc.

      • by r00t (33219)

        After more than 30 years of life, I have not found much to be gained from your Western values, culture and your vapid mindless "entertainment" that my people are so fond of aping.

        Same here, and I'm a non-Muslim in the USA.

        Note that we are both on Slashdot. That could have something to do with it.

        I'll guess the people in your country who ape the vapid mindless entertainment are not Slashdot readers.

      • After more than 30 years of life, I have not found much to be gained from your Western values, culture and your vapid mindless "entertainment" that my people are so fond of aping. Maybe it is you Westerners who should take the effort to learn about other cultures to avoid being so easily mind controlled by your politician's xenophobic propaganda.

        Sure, let's give it a try.

        30 seconds looking up information on the culture of Malaysia have found me this [wikipedia.org].

        So much for "xenophobic propaganda", eh?

        I guess I'll stick to my Western values of personal freedom, and respect for the freedom of other individuals to decide for themselves (but not to force their POV on others), thank you very much.

  • I can't wait to try out ArabRoulette and see what I get!

    • I can't wait to try out ArabRoulette and see what I get!

      I am more interested in what happens if the Arabs find chatroulette.

      • I can't wait to try out ArabRoulette and see what I get!

        I am more interested in what happens if the Arabs find chatroulette.

        I imagine that in the confusion 4chan will wind up trolling itself and the entire Internet will collapse into a massive meme black hole such that after society rebuilds, a new era will dawn in which all art depicts humans fleeing from demonic Ethernet cables.

  • by Nadaka (224565) on Monday February 22, 2010 @05:58PM (#31236804)

    I used to play FFXI and found their system of guided translation to work reasonably well. Several times I was in Japanese parties, or had a Japanese in my party and we were capable of communicating about 80% of what we wanted to. It generally produced less garbled messages than I have seen from sites like babel fish, though that may have been affected by the limited topics of discussion in an MMO.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:00PM (#31236846)

    Thanks for joining our site... you're now being followed by:

    @CIA
    @FBI
    @DARPA
    @OsamaBL

    • Does that includes a nifty little system tray agent app too? It's friendly! Trust us.... *evil grin*

  • by flyneye (84093) on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:03PM (#31236914) Homepage

    It could be considered a "Green" site. The flames from the forum could heat several countries, thus saving the need for petrochemical or electric heating.

  • "We have no word for GOD in our language, but we have a word for DOG."?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by zippthorne (748122)
      We never utter the phrase, "There's no word for it in English." in English. When we find a culture that has a concept for which no word currently exists in Engilsh, we say, "well, what's your word for it." Then we hit their language with a sack of potatoes and run off with the word. Sometimes the assault is more violent than than that, sometimes the exchange is far too friendly to be described in polite company, but by hook or by crook, there is no concept which cannot be expressed in English. At least
  • Now all of the trolls who only speak english will be able to harass other cultures around the world. Thank someone for that miracle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 22, 2010 @06:13PM (#31237076)

    Great, so maybe now Arabs will see what their leaders say in English to the Western press, which is completely different from what they say to their own people.

    Arab leader in Arabic: "Kill all non-believers, destroy the Great Satan (USA) and the Little Satan (Israel)"

    Arab leaders in English to the press: "We just want to live in peace and harmony"

    Western press: "Arab leaders: just want to live in peace and harmony"

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You are jocking right?

      You do realize that AlQaedah leaders have university degrees and many have studied medicine and or trained in western countries. The anti US drive is so strong and gaining more momentum every year. Fundamentalism was being funded by oil producing countries fr like 50 yrs now and it became self sustaining. I assure you that fundamantalism and anti US movements related to Sunni Islam are still gaining momentum. Significant amounts of the Zakkat money (similar to donations but required by

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by majid_aldo (812530)

      who told you arab leaders are representative of arabs?

    • Uh, citation needed? Are the moderators really confused today, or have "troll" and "insightful" become synonyms without me noticing?
    • Arab leader in Arabic: "Kill all non-believers, destroy the Great Satan (USA) and the Little Satan (Israel)"

      So, outside of the fringe, religious nutjobs, when have Arab leaders actually called out to destroy non-believers, the US, and Israel? Because I'm sure if I dig around hard enough, I can find religious nutjobs here in the West that have called on the destruction of all of those awful foreigners. Should I consider them to be mainstream and popular as well? What's your definition of an Arab leader anyway?

      Actually, looking at your comment and reading through the various misconceptions posted here on /., this w

  • ...when their men spoke directly to our women. In a blinding display, the new "51% Voting Block" party was formed, the Constitution amended to allow the foreign-born to become president, President Obama impeached and thrown from office, and New Zealand actress Lucy Lawless voted in as president.

    The nukes were launched less than five minutes later.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I can see that phrase coming up a lot.

  • Translate and Die (Score:2, Informative)

    by ittybad (896498)
    Death to those who translate the Quran [conversati...theist.com]
  • by Hurricane78 (562437) <deleted@s l a s h dot.org> on Monday February 22, 2010 @07:18PM (#31238014)

    Just go an play some online games. Preferably RPGs. Then you automatically come into contact with people from all over the world.
    Most of them speak English anyway. But often secondary languages like Spanish help too.
    And after a while, you will have them in your instant messenger, and talk about life and things.
    But I promise you, that it will be more interesting than talking to somebody on Slashdot. ^^

    Oh, and by the way:
    I wonder if you can already find someone with the name Achmet on that site, having his status set to (deceased) ;)

  • Great. Now we get to find out what Dirka Dirka really means.
  • by HockeyPuck (141947) on Monday February 22, 2010 @08:09PM (#31238526)

    Unless there's a solid moderation system (like /., but then you could have moderators battling it out, which probably happens here, but I don't see it) you could end up with stuff like this.

    Recently at UC Irvine the Israeli Ambassador to the US, Michael Oren, had been invited to campus to speak [youtube.com]about Israeli-U.S. relations, but his lecture before about 500 people at the Student Center was interrupted 10 times by students denouncing Israel's treatment of Palestinians. Earlier that day, UCI's Muslim Student Union had issued a statement condemning the decision to invite a "public figure who represents a state that continues to break international and humanitarian law ... ."

    After the 10th interruption, the event deteriorated further as a large group of students walked out of the conference room to jeers - and, the protesters allege, threats - by Oren's supporters. Eight UCI students and three UC Riverside students were briefly detained in another room before being released, after Oren had finished his speech. A planned 30-minute question-and-answer session with Oren was scrapped.

    (follow up article [ocregister.com] at the UC Register)

  • Not to sound to insulting but asking the average man or woman (including me) to understand the cultural complexities of diplomacy is as about as successful as teaching a goldfish the complexity of quantum string theory.
  • Why am I supposed to respect an all-encompasing way of life (not a mere "religeon") that insists on killing people who quit?

    There are a dozen countries in which this is the law. If you are thought to have stopped being Muslim, the government will execute you.

    Elsewhere, it happens without official government sanction. It is considered every Muslim's duty to kill somebody who leaves. If a Muslim becomes Christian or Atheist, they will be killed. The MUST be killed.

    WTF? This is the ultimate disrespect for non-

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