Firstly, I enjoy Google Translate – Alphabet’s tool for translation; it works fairly well for basic translation into languages that have a certain level of global dominance or ubiquity; however, there is firstly, the problem that it doesn’t cover a vast swathe of languages – which is partly Google’s problem and partly the problem of the primary speakers of those languages. This problem though is not the problem I have a problem with at this point. My problem, and gripe with Google Translate at present is that it is making a fundamental attribution error by mistaking the script of a language for its sound; for example, Russian is written in Cyrillic script – but the sound can obviously be represented in latin letters, which is much more globally ubiquitous, and pointedly, for the purpose of Google Translate, which is presumably to aid mutual intelligibility – would be a much more effective way of representing the text; similarly, many African languages, including mine, Yoruba, are tonal in their registers of meaning, as are the variants of Chinese – and thus require some way of indicating which meaning is intending by a particular signification. We think the first thing the good folks at Google could do for us – is to represent the languages that have a particular script – in latin letters, either alongside the language’s primary script – or in place of it; it would simply be making the distinction between textual literacy in a language and oral and aural literacy in a language. We think we folks at the Vex Association have done the folks at Google a solid – you can pay us later, we’ll looking for grants to further our work, and we would love a chat with either you folks at Google, or anyone interested in language and literacy work, especially in the media and publishing sphere. Peace.
Dele Fatunla for The Vex