An Old Language Is young Again...

An Old Language Is Young Again...

At VideoTranslator, we are big fans of the work of Tim Brookes. Recently, his work has included a kickstarter to create art work in traditional Nepalese script known as Ranjana.

We look at a language he shone some light on today. We also look at work Comcast is doing to support hearing impaired clients. This is quite exciting from an operational perspective.

Lastly we look at a recent write up from the Latin Post which looks at how to interface with commercial translation firms for your localisation and internationalization requirements.

A Once and Future Alphabet

If you like language related content you should follow Tim Brookes. His work sits at the intersection of language and art.

This is from his recent kickstarter; disclaimer: we gave him a small amount of money because we are fans.

Basically he works with artists to create woodcuts of content in relatively unknown languages. This is my favourite bit of woodwork.

Source: Tim Brookes; 'Suksma', the Balinese 'Thank you'
Source: Tim Brookes; 'Suksma', the Balinese 'Thank you'

Recently he wrote an article about Tifinagh, the script of the Amazigh family of languages, spoken by people in Morocco and North Africa generally.

Go and read the article. Amazigh dialects are spoken by about 17 million in Morocco, 10 million in Algeria, 4 million in the Mali/Burkina Faso/Niger region, perhaps half a million in Libya, tens of thousands each in Tunisia, Mauritania, and Egypt, and several million scattered overseas, especially in France and Spain.

Until recently, this script was marginalised in favour of Latin/Arabic scripts, so writing a Tifinagh symbol on a wall, and may be interpreted as a political or generally subversive act.

Due to work by the Institut Royal de la Culture Amazigh (IRCAM) in Rabat, Tifinagh is slowly coming back. This kind of news makes us happy. Go check out Tim’s work!

Source: IRCAM, Morocco; Schoolbook for teaching the Amazigh language in Tifinagh script
Source: IRCAM, Morocco; Schoolbook for teaching the Amazigh language in Tifinagh script

Comcast Now Offers Customer Service In ASL

Here in Australia we have been having a bad fire season. Summers in Australia can be hazardous, but this year seems to be worse.

Fire bulletins go out but there were some concerns about Auslan support (the Australian version of ASL). One such example can be seen below. The link is here. Our take at VideoTranslator is that this was an oversight, and was corrected pretty quickly, so no harm no foul hopefully.

Source: Twitter; Retrieved Dec 13, 2019
Source: Twitter; Retrieved Dec 13, 2019

But it would appear progress is being made more generally. The good people at Comcast and Connect Direct are taking the challenges of the hearing impaired community more seriously and have added ASL support to their customer service.

Quoting, "For the first time in the cable industry, ASL will be a language option for customer service. The new feature will further bridge the digital divide for Americans with disabilities by ensuring that members of the deaf community can get connected to the Internet at home without barriers."

The operational challenges of pulling this of are likely significant, so congratulations to Comcast for taking this step - we wish them best of luck with the continued delivery of this service.

Accurate Translations and Localization Is Not Possible With Machines

From the Latin Post, comes this headline.

The article makes the following points:

  • Machines are programmed, humans program them.
  • Humans come with cultural backgrounds, machines don’t.
  • Humans understand humans, machines can’t.
  • People get the intent, machines don’t.
  • When in doubt, go for someone you can hold accountable.

Here at VideoTranslator, you might expect us to disagree with the above. We think the above points are actually quite reasonable, with caveats.

For every point above, we could furnish an example where the above either is, or is not, true. This might seem counter-intuitive, but this is complicated stuff, so it should not be surprising that there is truth to both points of view.

The way to think about AI is, use AI for the heavy lifting, and use humans for higher value tasks.

Using technology like our platform, human transcribers, translators and voice artists can greatly increase their efficiency. This does not mean it is a one-size-fits all.

But that is not really what this article is about. This article is about the pervasive belief that AI will replace human jobs.

We don’t think this is true, or at least not the way most people think. It is true that AI is causing dislocations in several business models. It is also true that many of these business models were declining to begin with - AI can be thought of as the final straw rather than the reason for the failures.

Does this make a difference if you are likely to loose your job due to automation - hell no. however, it is a valid distinction to make when policy makers are looking for solutions.

We don’t have all the answers, but we do think our approach of using AI will be a net benefit to the transcription, translation and dubbing communities. This is because fundamentally, humans and computers are good at different things.

We should still have empathy for people at the margins who are getting their wages squeezed by the relentless march of technology.

Not least because it will take humans to solve these, and other, challenges of the 21st century.


We don’t have all the answers, but we think it is possible to build platforms where the best of technology can help people be more effective and do more in less time. Talk to us to find out more!

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