Today Microsoft celebrates International Mother Language Day (IMLD) alongside UNESCO, with the goal to promote linguistic and cultural diversity and multilingualism across the world.
Advancements in technology to support and preserve languages create greater awareness of the linguistic and cultural traditions celebrated throughout the world, which in turn promote understanding, tolerance and dialogue. Helping to enable business, communities, and consumers to communicate and collaborate across language barriers through technology innovation is a core focus for the Microsoft Translator team.
As part of that focus, Microsoft Translator is announcing Welsh as a new supported language in partnership with the National Assembly for Wales and leveraging the Microsoft Translator Hub. The Welsh language today becomes the latest to join a growing list of languages to benefit from translation services provided by Microsoft Translator.
In 2012, the National Assembly passed the Official Language Act into law, which placed a statutory duty on the Assembly Commission to treat both languages on the basis of equality.
The Assembly’s Presiding Officer, Dame Rosemary Butler, said: “One of my key roles is to ensure that all the people of Wales are able to engage with the Assembly’s work, whether through the Welsh or English language. That’s why we have been working with Microsoft to create an automatic language translation system to help the Assembly to meet our own language goals.”
Machine translation is a key part of the Assembly’s commitment to delivering a fully bilingual institution where businesses and services can be delivered through the Welsh and English languages. Users can now translate to and from Welsh using the breadth of Microsoft products including: Office, Bing Translator as well as in the Bing Translator applications for Windows Phone and Windows.
In addition to backend service updates to the Microsoft Translator API, new updates have been released for Windows and Windows Phone Translator apps which include:
To further commemorate IMLD, the Microsoft Local Language Program, a part of Microsoft YouthSpark, announced the Language Toolbox, an additional resource to the Microsoft Language Portal (LLP), serving as a consolidated inventory of free language resources and tools provided by Microsoft to help bridge the gap between language and technology. You can read more about this new resource here.
At Microsoft, we are excited that the continued advancements of machine translation features and functionality are enabling users to achieve a shared understanding and make the world a little smaller every day.
To Learn More
Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc. has released a new Bing Translator plugin that lets you apply the power of Bing Translator to any WordPress site running version 3.8 or later.
Using the plugin, visitors can translate a site into any of the 40+ supported languages in one click without leaving the page once this light-weight, cross-browser plugin is installed. This plugin also provides options for a setting a color scheme, as well as an option to allow visitors to suggest translations.
The Bing Translator plugin should be installed from within the WordPress Dashboard by clicking on Plugins >Add New and search for "Bing Translator” and works on any WordPress site. A site developer can also manually install the plugin by downloading it from WordPress.org, then adding the “bing-translator” folder in the “/wp-content/plugins/” directory.
Using Bing Translator Plugin for WordPress Video
More Links to Get Started
Congratulations to Microsoft Open Technologies, Inc team for their great work on the Bing Translator Plugin for WordPress!
The following is a guest post by the Microsoft Translator Partner, Lionbridge Technologies, who developed GeoFluent as solution to address the challenge of real-time translation of user generated content leveraging the Microsoft Translator automatic translation service and customization capabilities of the Translator Hub.
It’s the middle of the night in China, and you are still at the office, working on a complex installation that needs to be up and running by the time the boss comes in the next day. There is no room for error, and the pressure is on.
All of the sudden, a server malfunctions, and you realize your big project has stalled, and progress has come to a halt. What do you do?
Your first lifeline is the vendor’s “Contact Us” button on their website. A chat window opens up immediately with customer support on the other end. An agent works through the issue with you online, and suddenly the project is back underway. You breathe a deep sigh of relief.
What you don’t know is that the customer support agent only speaks English and was seamlessly interacting with you, even though your native language is Chinese. The communication was so seamless you weren’t even aware that a language gap existed. Somehow, it just worked. What you did know, however, is that, had immediate assistance from customer support not been available, you would likely be looking for a new vendor for future business.
The lesson learned is simple. Today’s business demands that companies of all types need to be able to respond and support their global customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. That means that customer service personnel must be able to provide that support to customers regardless of their native language and time zone.
The challenge with that type of customer service and support is that neither native speakers or human translation are viable solution, both from a cost, response-time and scalability standpoint. Can machine translation solve this problem effectively?
As experts in translation and localization services, we at Lionbridge understood that while automatic translation provided the immediacy necessary to keep up with the translation demands of user-generated content, business clients demanded more. Translations had to at least be actionable and understandable even if they weren’t perfect.
The list of challenges that needed to be addressed to make automatic translation valid for these customer support scenarios were numerous. Some of the biggest hurdles included:
For this reason, we developed GeoFluent, a real-time automated translation solution designed to meet the needs of business clients in a scalable and cost effective manner. Building on Microsoft Translator as the underlying automatic translation service, GeoFluent provides an additional configuration layer that enables real-time conversations and content sharing with users who speak, read and write different languages. It is easily integrated into customer’s existingchat and community applications.
We took these above mentioned challenges into account when developing GeoFluent. This SaaS-based application delivers the features that businesses require, including:
A successful machine translation experience must be seamless, actionable, and timely. GeoFluent makes this makes this possible for the demanding needs of customer service organizations to support a global customer base.
To learn more about how GeoFluent solutions are leveraging Microsoft Translator, go to:
GeoFluent Partner Page
By Greg Belkin
Director, Product Marketing
This is the year of machine learning and big data. Whether it is predicting political results, supercharging your Excel spreadsheets, helping map queries to intent in Search, or even customizing a translation engine to best fit your content – these research areas are playing a starring role in transforming technology and productivity.
A couple of weeks back, at the 14th annual Computing in the 21st Century Conference, attendees saw a glimpse of where else these technologies are taking us – and loved it. Rick Rashid, who heads up Microsoft Research worldwide, went up on stage and in the span of eight sentences, got the 2000+ strong crowd up on their feet and cheering. It was a moment where technology was indistinguishable from magic – and one that would spur science fiction writers to start thinking of bigger challenges for researchers to tackle :)
Watch the video to see for yourself:
A combination of powerful technologies were employed to make this amazing demonstration possible: Deep Neural Network based processing combined with high performance computing allowed a significant jump in accuracy of speech recognition. The Microsoft Translator technology that you use each day was customized to best fit Rick’s speech content. New speech synthesis technology that allows personalization of acoustic characteristics was able to create “Rick’s voice” in a language he does not speak. You can read Rick’s blog post here.
Some of these technologies are already available today, especially the industry-leading translation (Microsoft Translator) with customization capabilities (Translator Hub). If you are a Windows Phone user, you have been enjoying the most innovative translation app on any phone for over a year now, which includes an early speech translation experience that has been tuned for travel situations. The audio output that you hear on Bing Translator website uses some of the newer speech synthesis engines coming out of our Speech research. Deep-Neural-Net research is also behind our audio/video indexing service – MAVIS, which is available commercially.
The excitement that has been rippling across the web in response to this demonstration is an indicator of how much everyone wants to experience this ‘magic’. There is much work to do, but you will see the benefits of this amazing research in our products in our future releases.
Vikram Dendi Director Microsoft/Bing Translator & Microsoft Research
Special guest post from Microsoft Research Connections Director Kristin Tolle, who has been working with the Mayan community to enable them to preserve their language. Microsoft Translator Hub provides a means for communities and businesses to build custom language translation systems.
At X’Caret, the Mayan eco-archaeological park in Carmen Del playa, the Rector of the Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo, Professor Francisco Rosado-May and I along with Governor of Quintara Roo, Roberto Borge Angulo, unveiled the custom Mayan to Spanish translation system to demonstrate it to the community on December 21st, 2012—a date that coincided with the end of the 13th b’ak’tun and the beginning of the 14th. A fitting beginning for the Mayan-Spanish translation system.
I mentioned what an honor it is in a Microsoft Research Connections blog to work with local communities to create new translation models. What is special about the Microsoft Translator Hub is that it enables this capability “at home” by putting the power of developing a translation system into the hands of the organizations that care about it the most—the communities themselves.
An organization’s small data can be combined with our big data for the major languages to aid in the training of a new system—keeping it in use for coming generations or as the Mayans say, b’ak’tun. This is incredibly important to culture and language preservation as Carlos Allende, Public Sector Director Microsoft México explains, “The Microsoft Translator Hub is Microsoft’s contribution to worldwide cultures. In Mexico we are proud that this incredible technology is displayed for celebrating the Mayan Katun for keeping this language alive and allowing the next generation to have access to this millenarian knowledge.”
It takes a great deal of effort to build a translation model between two languages. One of the features of the Microsoft Translator Hub is that one can do this directly—create a translation model between two languages without having to go through a “pivot” language (usually English). And this is what the local university, Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo, has set out to do; to translate from Mayan to Spanish and vice versa.
The process began in May of this year when the Rector of the University, Professor Francisco Rosado-May, met with us at the LATAM Faculty Summit held in Cancun to discuss how it might be possible for his institution to work on Yucatec, a local Mayan dialect, as well as other related languages.
“The Translator Hub by Microsoft is not only a powerful software that facilitates the proper communication between Maya and Spanish but it is also a very important tool to achieve one of the strategic goals of our university: to preserve and increase the use of Maya,” said Professor Rosado-May who went on to explain the significance of language preservation, “Language is the genetic code of any culture, by understanding and using a lot more Maya, we also understand better the mental processes that trigger the construction of knowledge. In the case of Maya, that means understanding how they created sophisticated knowledge such as the zero, astronomy, mathematics, etc. This is why my University and I appreciate so much what Microsoft is doing with the Translator Hub.”
What is being unveiled today is a result of the hard work of linguistics professor, Martin Equival-Pat, his students, local language experts and the support of the local government agencies and Microsoft Mexico. Through their work the university has been able to build a Spanish to Yucatec and Yucatec to Spanish translation system that is just the beginning. As Rosado-May goes on to elaborate, “I expect that the hub will play an important role for the years to come in positioning the Maya language in the global world. We might be witnessing something special for the Baktuns ahead of us and contributing to one of the most important dreams all over the world: live in peace by understanding each other better, and recognizing that different cultures and different languages are important for peace.”
Microsoft Mexico fully supports this project and is comitted to the Mayan society. As Juan Alberto González Esparza, General Director Microsoft México explains, “Think for a moment of a situation where a Spanish speaker and a Maya person communicate with one another in their own languages using a computer or a phone. This is the world that Microsoft has imagined and now this is a reality thanks the Microsoft Translator HUB-Maya; that brings to the new age the Mayan language with all its culture, meanings, stories and lifestyle that will be preserved and available to everyone worldwide. This is the way we are generating a real impact in vulnerable communities connecting people with the potential of our technology.”
As we entered into the 14th b’ak’tun on December 22nd energized and engaged; the possibilities for the impact of the Hub and the impact of language preservation throughout the world are limitless.
- Kristin Tolle Director, Natural User Interactions Team Microsoft Research Connections