14 May 2022  |   06:38am IST

Konkani gets a translation tech tool

Konkani, the language of Goa and Goans gets a technological tool to take it international. It is now one of the languages that can be translated on Google Translate at the mere click of a button. Google Translate, used across the world, is a multilingual machine translation service from Google that translates text, documents and even websites from one language into another. While translation services for various Indian languages were available, Konkani was not one of them, until now, and the efforts for that came from a Goan based in the US and employed in a senior position with Google. He of course had friends in Goa who prompted him on this.

Google Translate is quite a popular tool for translations across the world, mainly because it is convenient, free and fast. All one has to do is key in or just paste the words or sentences for which a translation is required and within seconds the translation appears in the window alongside. It’s that fast and that convenient, two reasons that make it popular, besides its easy access to anyone who has a computer system, laptop or a smart phone with internet access, which today is most everybody. With transactions between countries increasing and relations strengthening, this translation service has picked up quickly.

Yet, Google Translate, for all its convenience does not produce a perfectly accurate translation. It is a neutral machine that reproduces the meaning of the word, not necessarily the context in which it has been used. Besides, with a single word having varied meanings, only the reading of the sentence can make the translation accurate, which can happen only by a human. The person seeking the translation, therefore, must mandatorily know both languages reasonably well to be certain that the translation is correct. It always requires a human edit to correct all the errors. Google Translate is a tool to give reasonably accurate meaning of the original text in the language of choice. That in itself is a big help.

In Goa, where translation from Konkani to English and vice versa has seen some hurdles, this opens up various possibilities, among them would be of translation of Konkani literary works to other languages. Konkani writers have not been able to reach out to readers of other languages, and the tech tool, if applied correctly will, at the very least, give a rather decent version of the original Konkani in the other language which the translator will then have to fine tune. It can never be perfect. It will, however, reduce the workload considerably, making it possible to complete the translation task in far quicker time. 

Konkani among the languages that can be translated in the Google Translate services, therefore can be of immense value to Goans in the home State as well as the vast Goan diaspora that often finds it difficult to get Konkani words and phrases translated. It could actually help the second generation of the Goans who are living abroad who have grown up outside the State and have not learnt the language of their ancestors. For them this is one tool that could help learn their language and culture without seeking professional or amateur help. The translations will not be without some errors, but this will be a step towards promotion of Konkani not just in the State but outside it too. 

An online translation is not the best that one can get, as there will be errors and grammatical inaccuracies. Human intelligence is no match for artificial intelligence in this area, but whatever can be gained from available online tools should not be rejected. The way forward is to utilise it as a complement to lighten the human burden.


Idhar Udhar