The Bible Is Linguists’ Secret Weapon For Machine-Translating Obscure Languages

Services like Google Translate and Bing work great with English and Spanish, because they have plentiful and deep data sets to draw upon: lots of stuff exists in both of those languages. But the trouble with big data is that it needs big data. This leaves languages like Galician, Welsh, and Faroese in the cold, translationally wise, because there’s just not much of them online to work with.

So linguists from the University of Copenhagen found a different solution for the translation of these minority languages. And that solution is the Bible. They didn’t just pray for better algorithms, though. “The Bible has been translated into more than 1,500 languages, even the smallest and most ‘exotic’ ones, ” says Anders Søgaard a professor at the University of Copenhagen. “The translations are extremely conservative; the verses have a completely uniform structure across the many different languages which means that we can make suitable computer models of even very small languages where we only have a couple of hundred pages of biblical text.”

Read more: Fast Company

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