Finally, technology has taken a step forward by democratizing its reach. Google Translate will now translate Quechua, one of the most spoken indigenous languages in Latin America.
As reported by New York TimesGoogle has added more than 24 languages to its translation service, including Southern Quechua, the main language of the Quechua language family.
Together they are spoken by some 300 million people. Many, like Quechua, are primarily oral languages that have long been marginalized, spoken by indigenous or minority groups.
Google said the goal was to include underrepresented languages in technology to “connect communities around the world”.
The tool could also help health workers, teachers, civil servants, police and others connect with responders in their own communities.
“In the Andes, there is a lack of bilingual professionals in very critical areas,” said Dr. Américo Mendoza-Mori, a Quechua-speaking scholar at Harvard University who studies indigenous identity and linguistics. “There are millions of speakers who need to be served and treated as citizens of their own country.”
“Runa Simi” or Quechua was born on the central coast of the Lima region more than 1,500 years ago and spread from there to Cusco and the entire Sacred Valley of the Incas, extending into the territory of the southeast with the Inca Empire . The victors imposed their language as a unifying force, thus creating the language of the state.
The term “Runa simi” was changed to “Kichua” or “Quechua” in the work “Arte y vocabulario de la lengua general del Perú llamada Quichua”, written by Fray Domingo de Santo Tomás in the 16th century.
Today, it is estimated that between 8 and 10 million people speak Quechua in South America, mainly in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Southern Quechua is by far the most widely spoken, with up to seven million speakers.
Until recently, Google Translate’s machine learning system needed to see translations from one language to others it knows to master it, Google Translate researcher Isaac Caswell told The Times. But now the tool is so experienced that it can learn to translate a new language with little more than text in that language.