Bible translators use abilities and AI to ship pressing well being messages to marginalized language teams

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(Photo: Wycliffe Bible Translators)

Governments around the world have pushed for urgent health warnings to slow the spread of the corona virus, but Wycliffe Bible Translators is working to ensure that hundreds of minority groups do not miss these key messages because they speak a different language.

The translators are now using their language skills to translate health translations such as "wash your hands" into over 500 languages ​​that are currently not supported on any public translation platform.

The pioneering work is led by Steve Moitozo, Daniel Whitenack and Rob Hess from SIL International, a partner organization of Wycliffe Bible Translators, with the help of AI.

"Much of the world's digital media is only available in a few dozen languages, and translation platforms like Google Translate only support around 100 languages," said Whitenack.

"This reality means that there are billions of people worldwide who are marginalized due to a lack of timely health information."

Thanks to the latest AI techniques, the team was able to publish translations of "Wash Your Hands" in 523 languages. However, the project also invites you to submit your own corrections or to add to the list of translations.

The team draws on Bible translation work already done in these minority languages ​​and combines AI with the Facebook research platform to quickly generate Coronavirus updates and get them into the hands of health workers as quickly as possible.

Whitenack said that the ability to understand a message in a person's mother tongue could make the difference between life and death.

"As the coronavirus pandemic (Covid-19) is still spreading worldwide, this work has highlighted the need for immediate and rapid translation of health-related phrases into the many languages ​​that technology currently does not adequately cover," he said.

"When working with marginalized language groups, health workers need to have key terms such as" washing hands "or" keeping your distance "at hand in these languages.

"People may only vaguely understand the national language, so it is important to speak their language, otherwise the message will not get through.

A mural for washing hands in Dakar, Senegal(Photo: RBS Crew)

"It's like your doctor is telling you & # 39; what ever do" (in Dutch) or & # 39; Lavati le mani & # 39; (in Italian). You may understand the essentials, but you will likely miss the details – and that could be life-threatening. ""

Some of the generated hand washing phrases, as well as many human-translated versions, were made available online. Users can contribute their own translations or corrections and download local language posters that illustrate hand washing.

SIL has built a community of people to continue to share key health information during the pandemic with local language groups, including a short book on coronavirus and related infographics.

"I am not saying that this is a solution to the problem of disseminating information about coronavirus and other health-related issues, and it will not work in all languages," continued Whitenack.

"But we have to try to find creative solutions to problems related to the current crisis. Perhaps this is a small piece of a very large puzzle.

"But this work and the development of such sentences should help health professionals working in some of these marginalized language groups to deliver important, life-saving information to people in need."

James Poole, Executive Director of Wycliffe, said: "The highly specialized work of people like Daniel and his team is critical to ongoing efforts to translate the Bible.

"But as this latest application shows, Bible translation work not only has an impact on people's mental wellbeing, but also has a significant impact on areas such as health and physical wellbeing. This kind of work comes into play at a time of world pandemic."

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