Posted by Kevin Schofield

Of the 6800 “living” languages in use around the world, close to half are spoken by fewer than 10,000 people. The historical and cultural heritage represented by those languages is in danger of being lost forever – in fact, some experts predict that if the current rate of extinction continues, these languages will become extinct by the end of this century.

And while the Internet has become an amazing information and communication tool for people around the world, that’s far less true for those who don’t speak one of the world’s major languages. The language barrier can be a new form of “digital divide” for billions of people around the globe.

In many countries, there are communities of interest organized to tackle these problems, but challenges include creating translation services and securing technological and linguistic expertise. Microsoft Translator Hub, demoed at this week’s TechFest, can help address these challenges.

In many countries there are communities of interest organized to tackle these problems: preserving languages in danger of dying out, and connecting those who don’t speak one of the world’s dominant languages to the vast resources of the Internet. But the challenges facing these groups are daunting; translation services can be rare and expensive, especially for uncommon languages, and building automated tools requires both technological and linguistic expertise.

Microsoft Translator Hub provides a way for communities and businesses to self-organize to build, train and deploy customized automatic language translation systems between virtually any pair of languages. Powered by Windows Azure and the Microsoft Translator service, this online resource puts simple, easy-to-use tools into the hands of any individual or group without the need for any technical expertise.

 

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The Hub project is a collaboration of the Machine Translation and Research Connections teams within Microsoft Research, bringing together cutting-edge translation technology with support for language-preservation communities to start and manage their own projects.

The Microsoft Translator Hub site is live and ready for groups to start building custom models.