While there are some pretty nifty machine-based language tools out there, no machine will ever trump human translation. Machine-based tools are fine for simple greetings and pleasantries. However, only human translators can help us understand the political and cultural nuances inherent in foreign texts. This is important on two accounts. Firstly, rather than bouncing ideas off a culturally insular echo-chamber, we have a chance to learn from others with distinctly different view points. And secondly, for the first time ever, world history moves from being a confined regional fact to an evolving and diverse discussion.
Human translation lets us address collective global issues while also seeing the negative and positive impact of our choices. For this reason a number of groups have come forward to produce open translation (or crowd sourced translation) projects. Here are just a few of those efforts:
2. Worldwide Lexicon: This project first parses information with machine translators and real humans review the translations to ensure they are accurate. From here, the group republishes the sites in a number of languages in order to encourage cross-cultural dialogue. The group also built Der Mundo - what WWL describes as a "general purpose translation community for blog and RSS feeds."
3. WikiProject Echo: WikiProject Echo is a program where volunteer translators contribute their efforts to expanding the scope of Wikipedia. Volunteers will certainly have their hands full translating this amount of data as the site advertises 2.9 million English articles alone.
4. TED Open Translation Project: For polyglots, the TED Open Translation Project is a great way to practice superior language skills while contributing to a cause-worthy project. We're big fans of this educational series. All translators and reviewers are credited on the web page for a talk they've translated as with the above Arabic translation.
5. Cucumis: Cucumis also employs volunteer translators and all translation is thoroughly peer-reviewed. Once a translator's work is accepted, they receive points. The points are redeemable for translations from others within the community.