Many Languages, One World: Student Essay Contest

The United Nations (UN) are big promoters of multilingualism and this week is no exception. The UN Academic Impact (UNAI) and the ELS Educational Services launched a student essay contest to promote international education and multilingualism. Entrants should submit an essay written in one of the six official languages of the UN: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish as long as it’s not their native tongue.

The theme of the contest “Many Languages, One World’, focuses on multilingualism in a globalised world and supports communication between all global citizens. The UN is a global organisation, which understands the challenges in making hefty volumes of content available in different languages.

multilingualism, languages, UN official languages, countries spoken
The number of countries where each official UN language is spoken

In 2001, Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General at the time, suggested there was a linguistic imbalance with the UN having a tendency towards English. The reasons behind the imbalance boiled down to high translation costs and a lack of resources.

UN official languages, multilingualism, languages
UN official languages by number of speakers
Source: Ethnologue Languages of the World (SIL International, 2013)

Ten years later, in 2011, the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) in collaboration with the UN, trained their Moses technology based Machine Translation engine, using approx. 11 years of translated UN documents (2000 – 2012), which were provided by the UN’s Documentation Division (DD).  The Tapta4Un was born – a Statistical Machine Translation (SMT) engine for professional UN translators.

The UN had used Google translate and Bing Translator to translate their publicly available documents at first, and with good results. But as data from other organisations was added to those engines, the quality of UN translated documents began to decrease.

The TAPTA engine, built with customised UN training data, provided a much higher quality Machine Translation result and higher BLEU scores compared with google translate. This paved the way for the ‘gText’ project, a global UN project, which is the product of the positive adoption of Machine Translation, tasked with integrating computer aided translation (CAT) tools into the document workflow.

KantanMT allows users to build a customised translation engine with training data that will be specific to their needs. KantanMT are continuing to offer a 14 day free trial to new members. click here>>


DCU Students practice MT

Dr Dorothy Kenny

Lead by Dr. Dorothy Kenny and Dr. Stephen Doherty, over 50 DCU post graduates are learning to train Machine Translation (MT) engines in a variety of different languages and getting first-hand experience of using the latest KantanMT technology. Using DGT translation memories from the Acquis Communautaire (an open source translation memory directory provided by the European Commission), students are learning not only how to build engines and translate documents, but also how to evaluate their engines’ quality by utilising KantanMT’s automatic quality evaluation metrics.

“There is rapid technological shift towards more automated translation within the industry”, said Dr. Kenny, “and we want our students to graduate fully aware of the latest fusion of Machine Translation technology and the cloud. It’s important that they are comfortable with the use of Machine Translation as a way to improve translation productivity. ”

Dr. Kenny and Dr. Doherty offered encouraging feedback from their experiences while teaching with KantanMT. They particularly liked  ‘the intuitive and easy to navigate user interface and the speed of use’ which meant that the majority of students were able to build their first engine within the space of a one hour lab.

Dr. Kenny and Dr. Doherty stressed the importance of proper education when it comes to translation technology. They aim to encourage their students to use Machine Translation technology in a proactive rather reactive manner in order to “empower them as professionals”.