Hyderabad based IIIT will launch a translation tool for Indic languages in June 2009, reports Business Line. Called Sampark, what is interesting about the tool is that it allows users to translate content from seven Indic languages into Hindi. Another project under way allows translation of English texts into Hindi. At present, Google also allows translation of text to and from Hindi. Babelfish does not offer translation for any Indic languages.

Now translation is tricky because it involves context – and usually needs human intervention in order to be accurate; you’ll notice that Google asks users to suggest a better translation, in order to understand the context better. As an example, Google Translate suggests that the term “Eats Shoots and Leaves” should be 

translation

Translated back, that would mean “Shoots a bullet and eats leaves”. Lynne Truss will not be pleased.

I remember attending a lecture by Umberto Eco four years ago, where he emhpasised the role of translators, saying that almost all the religious texts were written in languages that are no longer in common use. The tranlators could have changed an entire religion on the basis of the translation.

Content Creation: Transliteration vs Keyboards

So far, most of the work we’ve seen around Indic languages has been centered on search and transliteration space. In case of transliteration, Quillpad and Google have online services, while Eterno has a mobile application.

However, we’re really not sure if transliteration is the right approach: it primarily targets a bi-lingual community, and will probably not work out for people conversant with just one language. At the same time, transliteration is the low hanging fruit. Most importantly, it does help in the creation of Indic language content.

For creation of more Indic Language content, what one needs is the proliferation of dual language keyboards – where with a flip of a switch, you can change the language in use. If you can have dual language keypads on mobile phones, why not dual language keyboards? Until then, I guess we’ll see keyboards with Indic language stickers on them.

Related: 

— Google Rolls Out Search In 3 Indian Languages – Gujarati, Marathi and Bengali; Rediff Language Search In Beta
— Google News And Indic Language Initiatives; Launches News In Tamil
— Are Hindi News Channels Only Paying Lip Service To The Online Market?
— Economic Times Launches Gujarati Website
— Rediff To Allow Users To “Communicate” In 22 Indic Languages