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With One New App, Every Sina Weibo Post Can Be Easily Translated into English

Steven Millward
Steven Millward
3:00 pm on Apr 24, 2013

A couple of months ago we previewed the creation of a new kind of third-party app for Sina Weibo – one that would translate the mostly Chinese content posted to the service into English. That would make the lively, Twitter-esque Weibo a lot more accessible to people who can’t speak Chinese. Well, today that app, called Surround App, has actually launched, so we can finally test it out.

Surround App is free and allows one-click machine translation of any Weibo post from someone you follow. In addition, it gives you a full English UI for the most common Weibo functions, like making retweets and comments. The Hong Kong startup admits that many features are omitted in this beta, with things like translation of comments, slang translation, image uploading, and paid-for human translations all coming at a later date. Here’s the current beta that I’ve been playing with:

Surround App translates Sina Weibo posts

There are a few confusing aspects to the new beta. What looks like the retweet/repost button (pictured above) is actually for comments, and what’s apparently a refresh icon actually serves to repost the content. It’s not made very clear how to activate the translation – it turns out you need to hit that arrow button in the bottom-left of the app. Hopefully the icons will be rethought. If it sounds like I’m being too tough on a free app, that’s just because I’m keen for it to be good as it could prove so useful for many people.

(See: Waigo App is a Pair of Eyes That Helps You Get a Bellyful of Chinese Food)
Co-founder Jeffrey Broer previously told my colleague that the concept was born of his own frustration at not being able to understand “all these fascinating people online that I want to follow”. The team has received about US$15,000 in seed funding, plus office space and technical guidance, from HK Accelerator.

Surround App is now in Google Play for Android users, but the iPhone version hasn’t yet shown up in iTunes.

Surround App translates Sina Weibo


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Have Your Say
  • http://mikecanex.wordpress.com Mike Cane

    Huh? How can you Follow someone on Sina Weibo if you can’t figure it out to begin with? What I really really really need is an app that will translate into English Weibo Search. Google Translate does not work with Weibo at all. I’d also like to be able to translate into English the official Weibo microblogs of companies like Onda, Ramos, Pipo, Colorfly, etc.

  • peppermint butler

    unsurprisingly frustrating that this app is not available to download in china via google play…

  • http://www.techinasia.com Steven Millward

    @peppermint butler – but it is available there. that’s how i got it.

  • http://www.surroundapp.asia Surround App

    Steven, thanks for trying our beta and sharing your valuable feedback. They are all great for us to take the app to the next level.

    Mike, thanks for your comments. The features like ‘Find People’ and ‘Suggestions on Who to follow’ are already on our road map and we will take your inputs into considerations during the development.

    Peppermint, we are aware of the Google Play issue and are looking into other app stores in China to distribute the app. Stay tuned!

  • http://www.surroundapp.asia Surround App

    Hey Steven, just to let you know that we have improved the app and icons. Update the app to the latest version and check it out. Welcome more feedback.

    • http://www.techinasia.com Steven Millward

      @Surround – thanks for the heads-up. though the app has now disappeared from the China version of Google Play. perhaps best to just offer the APK file, as do most Chinese sites.

  • Nik

    Yes, this app is incredibly useful for those us already in China using an android phone purchased/designed for the China market – which means we don’t have access to Google Play – would be nice to see if offered through some alternative channel….. 1mobile.com, Sumsung store, etc… or just .apk to download

  • http://www.surroundapp.asia Surround App

    @Steven @peppermint butler @Nik thanks for your feedback earlier and we are very happy to inform you that Surround App is now available on Samsung Apps store and it’s accessible in China. You can download here and do let us know for more comments: http://www.surroundapp.asia/download-app/