Crowdsourcing tapped in initiative to add Kyrgyz to Google Translate

Dec 14, 2011
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Kyrgyz speakers recruited on Facebook and other social networking sites have submitted nearly 30,000 pairs of texts in Kyrgyz and English in an effort aimed at getting Google to add Kyrgyz to the list of languages available on its automatic translation site.

But the initiative is still far from its goal of 1 million text pairs, one of the organizers told EurasiaNet.

Fewer than 20 percent of Kyrgyz use the Internet and they overwhelmingly use Russian-language sites, EurasiaNet writes. A volunteer for the project, Mamasaliev Erkin, told the Kloop blogging site that there are only about 60 regularly updated Kyrgyz-language websites. Many educated Kyrgyz are more comfortable speaking Russian than Kyrgyz, although many Russian speakers have emigrated since independence in 1991.

Kyrgyz, a Turkic language spoken by about 4 million people, still lacks many technical terms. The initiative asks users to translate phrases from science, literature, history, and other sources into Kyrgyz in order to build up a database of text pairs to be submitted to Google. That could take another year, project organizer Ulan Djumashev told EurasiaNet.

Djumashev said he is not a Kyrgyz nationalist and opposes forcing people to speak the state language.

“Learning the language helps me to understand my own identity and my own ethnos better,” he said.


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Transitions Online

Transitions Online (www.tol.org) is an Internet magazine that covers political, social, cultural, and economic issues in the former communist countries of Europe and Central Asia. The magazine has a strong network of local contributors, who provide valuable insight into events in the region’s 29 countries.
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