Translation projects can be challenging and can consume a lot of time. We came across one such project a few months ago. The job was to translate almost 20,000 words from English to Manipuri in Meitei script.

Manipuri or Meitei is spoken predominantly in Manipur, a northeastern Indian state. Meitei is currently classified as a vulnerable language by UNESCO. The language is written in two scripts: Bangla and Meitei Over the years, Meitei had lost its importance as a script as Bangla was much easy and used by a greater population, but now has started gaining back its popularity after the tremendous efforts taken by MEELAL (Meetei Eerol Eeyek Loinasinlon Apunba Lup or United Forum for Safeguarding Manipuri Script and Language).

The first task was to find someone who would translate into Meitei script using Unicode font. Although there are many Manipuri translators, most of them use the Bangla script to translate and weren’t familiar with the other one. A few of them took up the challenge but soon gave up owing to the level of difficulty in typing in the font! Independent words had to be translated along with their synonyms and that meant creating (almost) a dictionary out of scratch. While typing in the Eeyek Unicode font, one had to use more than two keys to type one letter.

Thankfully our research scholar from Manipur agreed to take up the challenge! He started with more than 20,000 words to translate and ended up delivering more than 50,000 words in Meitei!

The translation was required for an English learning app for people speaking regional languages or local tongue such as Meitei. The need for this translation arose when people had to learn English in an English script, which was basically of no use and counter-intuitive to the whole idea.

In this initiative AI enabled multi-sensory technology is deployed to teach English. This technology is deployed in government school classrooms. The technology has a translation tool which translates the English words into vernacular.

Translations like these are a ray of hope for localities and their languages and scripts that are vulnerable of becoming endangered. Not to forget, they also boost the IT sector that is responsible for popularizing the scripts and languages tbrhat exist and are still in use.

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