Tuesday, July 25, 2017

All Greek no more – Google adds Myanmar

In an historic move, Google Translate has added “Burmese” to its portfolio, enabling the easy online translation of Myanmar language into other tongues and back.

Google Translate upped its number of supported languages to 90 on December 12 by incorporating 10 new languages, four of which were Asian: Myanmar, Malayalam, Sinhala, and Sudanese, said a Google Asia Pacific blog post.

The initiative has been simmering for some time, and comes more than a year after Google executive chair Eric Schmidt visited Myanmar and promised the company would develop services for the country that included translation.

“We believe it will truly help open up the web for a new community of users who rely on Google Translate as a key tool for accessing the web in their language,” said Amy Kunrojpanya, Google Asia Pacific’s new emerging markets head of communications and public

affairs. Google counts 33 million people as native Myanmar speakers and highlights the particular obstacles to the language’s translation – namely, those around structure and font.

“The Myanmar language also doesn’t use spaces to separate words, which is common in English,” Ms Kunrojpaynya said. “To translate these phrases into English, we need to make sure that we break them or segment them correctly, so that it’s easier for the translation system to find the right translations.”

The site also seemed to choose sides in a major, long-running Myanmar debate over font use. Translations will only come out in Unicode, and Google advocates for open-standard fonts, the company said.

“Since our translation system learns from text it finds on the web, we need to make sure that we understand the different variants of writing in the Myanmar script,” Ms Kunrojpanya said.

The platform also incorporated Chichewa, Malagasy and Sesotho from Africa and Central Asian tongues Kazakh, Tajik and Uzbek, the Google post noted.

The company also showed its appreciate for and appealed to the “Translate Community”, which can help users hone in on definitions in the future. “While our translation system learns from translated data found on the web, sometimes we need support from humans to improve our algorithms,” the post said.

“Whether you’re teaching yourself a new language or trying to make a new friend, Google Translate can be a powerful tool for crossing language barriers.”