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Translations Now Available on District Website
Volunteers add a human touch to improve machine translation

LWSD is now offering machine translations throughout their website
Lake Washington School District (LWSD) has teamed up with Microsoft Research to offer human-assisted machine translations on the district website via Microsoft Translator. On the bottom of each Web page, you will notice a blue box that says, “Translate this page.” You will then have a drop-down menu in which you can select from more than 30 languages into which that page can be translated.

What is machine translation?
Machine translation can translate texts from one language to another automatically. A machine can learn lots of word-for-word/phrase-for-phrase mappings between two languages and it can translate texts into your own language instantly. But a machine is not a native speaker and machine translated texts are not 100% accurate. After all, humans often translate the same sentence differently. Although machine translation may not be perfect, a translation service like this one can be helpful for non-native speakers to get the gist of the information on a website.

If it is not always accurate, why is the district using machine translation?
Research shows that parent involvement in school can help students learn. Parents who do not speak English have a difficult time accessing information about their student’s school and getting involved. However, the cost of translating the entire district website into the most in-demand languages would be too great for limited school district budgets. As a result, the district began working with Microsoft on how to use machine translation in an effective way.

Volunteers help improve accuracy of translations
Both Lake Washington School District and Microsoft recognize the current limitations of machine translations. That’s why Microsoft Translator now enables “collaborative translations,” which allows readers to suggest or request an alternative to the computer’s translation. LWSD has taken the process one step further and recruited volunteers to review translations and provide alternatives where needed, beginning with those pages most important to parents. By using Microsoft Translator for collaborative translations with parent support, LWSD’s website translations will improve over time.

If you hover your mouse pointer over a line of translated text while using the translator tool, volunteers may have offered an improved translation with a human touch.

If you are interested in helping with this translation review process, please send an email to

LWSD would enjoy reading any feedback that you have to offer about the translation tool that is being used. Specifically, we want to know what pages are critical to have proper translations and if any translations currently being offered need improvement (please specify the language). We also welcome input on how to improve the usability of this tool. Please send your feedback to  

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