translate your twitter feed for a global conversation

Yesterday I returned from the DNA2008 conference in Brussels with my facebook and twitter bulging with new friends and contacts. The problem is, I suddenly found my friend feeds full of updates in Flemish, Dutch, French and other languages I can’t read.

Not only did this mean there were people in my friend streams saying stuff that I wanted to understand but couldn’t, it also rapidly began to diminish the usefulness of having those streams because of all the updates I couldn’t comprehend were effectively noise. Not anymore.

I’ve created a Twitter Tweet Translation Tool using Yahoo Pipes. It works by pulling in the feed of people I follow on twitter, runs it through the "loop" function where I’ve added language translation modules. I’ve repeated this about ten times, each time converting a different language to english, and then I’ve brought the results through some union boxes, essentially junctions that can accept up to five feeds in and output as a single feed. That single feed is then run through a filter that lets only the unique tweets through, meaning there are no duplicate tweets but I can see both the original non-English tweet and it’s translation.

I’ve tested my pipe with Italian (good), Spanish (usable) and Portuguese (not so great) thus far. In the screenshot above, you can see a tweet from ConversationAge in Italian:

"Giornata lunga oggi. Sto aiutando un collega con un esperimento. Cosa sto dicendo in Italiano?"

The translation, after the tweet went through my Yahoo Pipe, came out as:

"Long day today. I am helping a colleague with a
experiment. What I am saying in Italian?"

Steve Bridger helped out by saying, in Spanish:

"Just to say hello and I hope that you can read this. Good Luck!"

Which came out, quite understandable, as:

"Single to say holá and I hope that you can read this. Luck!"

Portuguese translation within the Pipe, unfortunately, proved far less satisfactory and really wouldn’t enable someone to follow a translated conversation.

I’m not the first person to use Yahoo Pipes to translate RSS feeds which is basically all I’ve done here. But I do think that this particular application could be quite useful for helping people stay in touch with friends who speak (and tweet!) a major language other than English. It could also be useful for programmes like World Have Your Say, a global radio discussion programme on the BBC World Service.

If you’d like to translate your twitter friend feed into English (or to and from one of around a dozen supported languages) you can copy my Twitter Feed Translation Pipe and customise it by making a copy and simply changing the url in each of the fetch feed modules. If you want to change the languages supported, just use the drop down menus on the translation modules to do that.

For some people it would also make sense to create a pipe that translates from the language you tweet in to the languages used by most of your friends and to then hook that pipe up to one of the various Twitter feed services – giving you language translation on the fly.

I have found that on some occasions the translations don’t appear to have worked. This can be resolved by going to the edit pipe view and clicking on language module for the tweet that you want translated.

When creating this Pipe, I found the following video quite useful:



  1. Well, it worked in some level in Portuguese. :-) But, like the spanish, with some “odd” constructions. :)

  2. Robin, thanks for letting me discover Yahoo Pipes. I had never heard of it, but it’s a real simple and powerful tool if you want to get a grip on various feeds.

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