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Open Source Translation at WSF
Alex Steffen, 26 Jan 04

This year's World Social Forum had 13 official languages... and a core of volunteer translators using a new open-source translation tool:

"In previous years, translations were offered to delegates in three languages: English, French and Spanish. This year, in addition to these languages, translations are being provided in Korean, Japanese, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Bengali, Malayalam, Bahasa Indonesian and Thai. And yet, the service costs are minimal.

"The translations are being done by an international network of volunteer interpreters called Babels, using a newly created open-source Linux software. The software can be run on a midrange computer, therefore cutting out the high costs of translation associated with special high-speed computers, consoles and mixing equipment.

"The translator uses an interface on the computer screen to select the language being spoken. The speaker's voice is digitized and sent to the translator, who then sends the translated text out through the interface to audiences, who listen on headsets.

"This is the first time we have used such an innovative free-share on such a large scale," said Sophie Gosselin, a member of Nomad, the organization that created the translation software. "And because all the speeches and their translations are going through our computers, we are going to be able to archive all of them. This means we will be able to put it up on the WSF's site to be shared with everyone who was not able to attend now, taking the forum to hundreds of thousands of people."

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