All words from all languages in one dictionary

The universal online dictionary Kamusi has just added 1.2 million terms from several databases in its quest to translate all the meanings of every word in all the world’s languages. Three African languages and 200,000 words of Vietnamese will soon follow.

Kamusi, which means dictionary in Swahili, aims to translate all the meanings of words from 7,000 languages from around the world into all other languages, and it will include definitions and usage examples. This vast project, which began twenty years ago, is growing at an exponential rate. Some languages, like English and Swahili, are already largely available.

More than a translator, this dictionary delves into the words so that two meanings of the same term can no longer be confused. Take the English word light: in French, the automatic translator will translate it as léger or lumière depending on the context. Yet the chosen meaning is often incorrect, and the text becomes gibberish. The problem is even more pronounced when it comes to less common languages. Kamusi, which is now an NGO, intends to overcome these pitfalls. It includes both definitions and examples. In addition to being ambitious, the project is also a major technological challenge because a massive amount of data needs to be stored, organized and made accessible.

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