Language technologies for the minorities


Kalika Bali’s talk on

There is a lot of technology involved in producing educational materials. However, most language technology is focusing on majority languages while the minority languages stay behind. In a recent TED talk, a language technology enthusiast working with Microsoft, Kalika Bali, is talking about how this gap can be bridged.

Speech software, language learning apps, special fonts, translation software and all kinds of other language  technologies are under development for the major languages of the world. In her TED talk "The giant leaps in language technology – and who’s left behind" Kalika Bali argues that the gap with minority languages is widening: "...resource-rich languages have technologies built for them, so researchers and technologists get attracted towards them… And the resource-poor languages stay poor; there's no technology for them, nobody works for them. And this divide, digital divide, between languages is ever-expanding and by implication also the divide between the communities that speak these languages is expanding.”

She gives nice examples of technologies that can engage with local communities to also provide them with technologies to support and even revive the language. For example, this one they did in the Gondi language sounds pretty cool to me: “Adivasi Radio … which takes a Hindi text-to-speech system and allows it to read out news and articles provided by CGNet Swara in Gondi language. Users can now use this app to read, watch news and access any information through text and voice in their own language.” She also reports: "We were able to put out 200 books … in Gondi, so that the children had access to stories and books in their own language.“

A TED talk worth listening to!