in All Things Localization, Language Technology

As governmental bodies determine their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, technology is reaching across nations to aid these efforts. In these times, information regularly crosses linguistic boundaries with the utmost urgency, and in response people all over the world have come together to aid translators in their work. For example, WhatsApp, a social media chat app with more than 2 billion users globally, has teamed up with the World Health Organization to combat misinformation. Especially popular in India, South America and Africa, WhatsApp hopes to use its influence to provide life-saving information through a tailored platform on the app that allows users to request and receive free news on symptoms and other advice. The app is currently available in Arabic, English, French, Hindi, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese, with plans to roll out more languages.

Developments at WhatsApp help illustrate the profound societal change towards “hyperlocality” recently noted by Tricia Wang, co-founder of the consulting firm Sudden Compass, whose portfolio includes industries in China, Mexico, and India. Envisioning what life could be like five years on from the pandemic, Wang reflected on mutual aid groups and the large chat groups in Wuhan, China that were created to pool resources. She predicted that hyperlocal groups will “outlive” the pandemic, all while “embrac[ing] differences as a key feature of the participants all the while maintaining allegiance to the group’s mission”.

Embracing differences while maintaining a key message not only mirrors key considerations and practices from professional translation but further emphasizes the need for it. Translation, which enables the sharing of critical information to different communities, will be the hallmark of our hyperlocal future. In the meanwhile, not only are translators working tirelessly, but translation tools are improving as well. In one example of how this relentless work can help empower translators with machine translation, researchers in South Africa have compiled a dataset of a few hundred headlines in Setswana and Sepedi, two of South Africa’s official languages. In addition, others are adding headlines in Xhosa and Zulu. In the future, tools for these languages will be able to more accurately aid translation projects in South Africa.

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As translation tools improve and the need grows for accurately translated information, CSOFT’s global network of expert linguists and subject matter experts continues to provide crucial localization solutions in 250+ languages. With expertise in software localization best practices and optimization, our linguists are uniquely equipped to help drive the rollout of these communications solutions in new languages, when and where they are needed.

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