Yahoo announced its acquisition of Maktoob today in a deal meant to improve programming in areas like the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Wrote VP of Emerging Markets Keith Nillson, "We're committed to responsible global engagement. This means being sensitive to local laws, customs, and norms." As critical thinkers, are we going to sit back in our English-only culture bubbles or do we also want a taste of that global engagement? If you're a Firefox user and you're interested in accessing foreign language sites, you may want to try the Worldwide Lexicon's new Universal Translator Toolbar.

The Worldwide Lexicon is an open-source project that exists to eliminate language barriers using a combination of human and machine translation techniques. ReadWriteWeb reviewed the company in an article on open translation projects. In its latest Universal Translator effort, the group helps translate entire web pages automatically within the browsing experience. The Firefox tool enables project members to create, curate and share translations.

In June, ReadWriteWeb covered the Google toolbar's translation feature in Internet Explorer. Worldwide Lexicon's browser-based toolbar seems to improve where the Google toolbar leaves off. One of the great features of the Worldwide Lexicon project is that you can correct translations or suggest that a translator improve upon a particular page.

A Russian friend once mentioned that he had a hard time getting entries accepted into Wikipedia because he had a hard time depoliticizing his words. Rather than removing cultural nuances from an article, the Universal Translator gives us a window into an authentic perspective often unlike our own. While no human or machine translation is perfect, this effort is a great step towards bridging truly global dialogue.