Tell the world about our swamp

Inspired by reading some folk poetry, I was doing a web search researching the distribution of two words for "turtle", želka (желка) and kostenurka (костенурка) in Macedonian and Bulgarian. (The former word is the old Common Slavic - related to Greek χελώνα, and English ''chelonian'' too - and is the standard Macedonian word, present also in Bulgarian dialects; the latter is the modern standard Bulgarian, and I was curious to find out if it ever appears in Macedonian too).

So Google search found this page for me, which was supposed to be the Macedonian version of a page about the Friends of the Western Swamp Tortoise, a conservation group in Perth, Western Australia. The fact of the existence of such a page was curious enough (there are some Macedonian speakers in Australia, and one could imagine one of them working on the Urban Bushland Council of Western Australia and wanting to translate a web page) - but looking at the actual text of the page made it clear no one actually speaking Macedonian would write something like that. The title, for example, was translated as "Пријатели на Западна мочуриштето Костенурка на", which just isn't a phrase with any sensible grammar in it; a normal was to translate the name of the group would, I assume, be something like "Пријатели на западна блатна желка". The rest of the page was not much better.

It did not take much time to realize that this was machine translation - and, incidentally, exactly the translation that Google Translate would provide for the English page in question. It turned out the Urban Bushland Council went very much full-bore with their translation enterprise: they translated their entire website into 50+ languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish! The quality of the translation, needless to say, varied. While it's easy to make fun of the quality of the automatic translation (besides the grammar and syntax problems, and occasionally failures to translate some words at all, the translation engine obviously was not aware that "Swan" is a proper name (Swan River)), the fact is that most translated pages - at least into half a dozen major languages I've taken a look at - were more or less (say, 80%) comprehensible.

I am still curious about the motivation beyond the organization's decision to provide these "translations", as opposed to, say, simply putting a "translate" button to every page, which would take the user to some kind of Google Translate plug-in... I suppose they made it easier for people to find their site when searching the web in foreign languages, but to which extent would that even be a concern for an organization with a regional scope in a region that's 90%+ English-speaking?

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