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The Power of Translation: Connecting the Past, Present, and Future

Published on
September 29, 2022
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International Translation Day, Your Translation is Now Processing

More than 7,100 languages are spoken in the world, but 97% of the world’s population speaks only 4% of them. While most of the remaining 96% are simply spoken by a small group of people, some of them are extinct or near extinction like Larrakia, whose last native speaker passed away over 20 years ago. If this pattern holds true, we stand to lose many more. Currently 573 languages are extinct, with more than 3,000 endangered. In order to preserve history, culture, and everything that has been passed on in spoken and written texts, people must either learn the language or create a complete translation from it into a commonly spoken one so that part of the world isn’t lost forever.

With all these languages in the world it would seem like many would be bi or multilingual. In fact, the opposite is true. The US Census Bureau found that only 20% of people living in the US speak 2 or more languages. The rest of the world fares at about 43% being bi or multilingual. With all of these languages and the majority of humans speaking just one, the world has to look to various forms of translation in order to communicate with one another.

International Translation Day and Why We Celebrate It

International Translation Day pays homage to the language professionals who help us communicate with others around the world. The professionals both translate written work and interpret live conversations. September 30th was chosen as the day for a religious reason. St. Jerome was known as a bible translator (from Greek into Latin) and on September 30 a feast is held to celebrate him and his work. The UN was the group that declared this a holiday due them considering multilingualism as a core value of the organization.

It's important to recognize the significance of translation. Without it most of the world would be unable to read texts written in other countries, which means losing out on learning about important historical and cultural events or reading about important scientific and medical discoveries that can benefit the world. Without it, you wouldn’t even be able to enjoy Squid Game if you hadn’t already known how to speak Korean.

Translation Made Easy

There’s an app for that. No really, we’re serious. How many times have you been at an international grocery store, at an ethnic restaurant, or traveling abroad and couldn’t find a label or description easily in your language? Even if you aren’t traveling abroad often, chances are you’ve come across food or other items with the packaging solely in another language. Thanks to AI, translation apps exist for you to download to your phone. If you have a newer iPhone model running iOS 14 or higher than you likely have the native translate app installed (this includes the feature being built into the camera). Don't have an iPhone or want to try a different app? Then check out these 7 great apps.

A machine learning algorithm was created for these translation apps to identify words either written or spoken and translate them into the language of your choosing. Some apps can even translate in real time, which is particularly useful if you’re abroad and need to ask someone for directions or order a coffee.

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How Appen’s Helps the World Communicate

We recognize the power of language and communication and are helping to connect people from all around the world, to bring everyone access to the same information. One of the ways we accomplish this is through chatbots and other conversational AI powered platforms. Our AI datasets account for languages, dialects, and the needs of our customers. Our datasets are for both written and spoken, and they account for factors such as typos, regional expressions, and removing unintelligible utterances which can reduce audio errors by 35%. A few audio specific actions include Natural Language Processing (NLP) and timestamping. When timestamping is combined with audio annotation a two-times faster annotation process occurs. To help get you started with your language needs, you can browse our catalogue of Pre-Labeled Datasets (PLDs) which contain more than 270 audio, image, video, and text datasets in over 80 languages.

Not all languages that exist are currently spoken, some only exist in written texts. Studying these helps us preserve history from long or not so long ago. In the case of working with the Larrakia Nation Aboriginal Corporation of People, we aided linguist Dr. Mark Harvey in preserving a language whose last native speaker passed away over 20 years ago. The complete language wasn’t properly recorded which put it at risk of part of the language being lost forever. We worked together on a database of usable audio and text. We used our technology to pair the audio and text together to make the database complete. In the future, this will be used to teach future generations how to read and write Larrakia. To learn more about how we accomplished this read our case study.

Translators Without Borders Partnership

Translators Without Borders (TWB) was founded in France in 1993 as a way to link nonprofits together. The focus was on health, nutrition, and education. TWB is comprised of more than 100,000 translators and other language specialists around the world. Their goal is to provide people with access in their preferred language to important knowledge that the world as a whole needs to know.

We partnered with TWB in 2020 to help translate COVID-19 terminology into 37 languages that were under-resourced by technology. This partnership saw us help translate datasets for 70,000 COVID-19 related terms. To learn more about the project, you can read the TWB article.

This translation day we encourage you to go out and buy that snack in a label you can’t read, buy that book that’s only available in one language, or fly to a new country. Thanks to translation, all the uncertainty of not understanding the language will go away. You’ll find a new appreciation for the world and hopefully try something new in the process.

 

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