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Google Translate in Kyrgyz: Coming Soon

2011 November 10
by learnkyrgyz
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Want to speak to sellers in Bishkek's colourful bazaars? Google Translate won't quite cut it.

Google Translate will soon feature Kyrgyz translation, say Kyrgyz news media. The popular online search translate engine will offer translation from and into Kyrgyz, courtesy of a group of Kyrgyz-speaking enthusiasts who are helping feed Kyrgyz texts with translations into Google’s database.

Launch estimates for Google Translate in Kyrgyz range from 3 to 5 months, which means we won’t see a Kyrgyz language option in the popular online translator until February 2012, at least.

Since Google Translate relies heavily on parallel texts (the trick behind its often outstanding translations between major European languages), the quality of Kyrgyz translations via the service will largely depend on the kinds of texts that are entered into its database.

Most parallel texts with Kyrgyz are likely to have Russian as the second language, so we can expect better quality results with Kyrgyz-Russian translation on Google, while Kyrgyz-English will probably be more glitchy.

While the addition of Kyrgyz to Google Translate is certainly an exciting development, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

Although highly logical and structured, Turkic languages, such as Kyrgyz, are notoriously difficult to translate. Turkish, for example, has been part of Google’s online translation system for a while now, but the results are still subpar. For a glimpse of said results, check out this automatic translation of a children’s story from Turkish:

A night of Christmas. Freezer, the blistering had a cold. Passers-by the collar of their coats omitted, atkılarına clad, fast speed walking. Some home late, rushing up, sometimes going to a fun place. They run children from each other, throwing snowballs. Most of the night they just had the pleasure. They laugh, and shouted with joy.

Hans Christian Andersen, The Little Match Girl
Translated from Turkish by Google Translate

If your goal is communication in a (relatively) rare language, such as Kyrgyz, learning this language to fluency is still your best option. The dearth of English-language textbooks for learning Kyrgyz need not be an obstacle. A selection of source texts (easily obtainable online) coupled with good language learning techniques and a bit of persistence should get you there in a few months’ time.

If you’re new to learning a foreign language to fluency and your goal is communication, you should by all means get the Speak from Day 1 series by polyglot Benny Lewis. Yes, it’s a shameless affiliate plug, but trust me, it’s worth it!

After all, even if the Kyrgyz version of Google Translate proves to be better than our wildest dreams, it will never be able to match a solid command of the language. So what are you waiting for? Go, get learning!

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Photo by neiljs

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