Can AI translate an unwritten language? Meta thinks so.

In an effort to create synthetic intelligence (AI)-powered translation packages for unwritten, predominantly oral languages, Meta claims it has developed the primary such program for Hokkien, a southern Chinese language language that doesn’t have a standardized writing system.

Though Hokkien is written to some extent, its roughly 46 million audio system would not have a extensively agreed-upon writing system, making it troublesome for builders to assemble the quantity of high-quality written information to coach conventional machine translation (MT) fashions. Meta has tried to deal with this problem by devising a “new modeling method” that is also used to develop related fashions for different languages which can be primarily spoken and would not have a standardized script.

“Our group developed the primary speech-to-speech AI translation system that works for languages which can be solely spoken and never written, like Hokkien,” stated Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a video the place he demonstrated the expertise with one of many researchers who labored on it.

Meta has open-sourced its Hokkien translation fashions, together with its analysis datasets and extra analysis in order that different builders can produce related fashions for different languages that don’t have available written information.

“AI-powered speech translation has primarily centered on written languages, but almost 3,500 dwelling languages are primarily spoken and don’t have a extensively used writing system,” the corporate wrote in an Oct. 19 weblog publish. “This makes it unattainable to construct machine translation instruments utilizing commonplace strategies, which require giant quantities of written textual content with a view to practice an AI mannequin.”

To coach their mannequin, Meta’s researchers used Mandarin Chinese language — which is way more carefully associated to Hokkien than English is — as a form of intermediate language, translating English and Hokkien speech into written Mandarin, which might then be translated into one of many goal languages.

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At present, Meta’s speech-to-speech translator solely permits customers to translate one sentence at a time, nevertheless the corporate said that its progress in different unsupervised studying tasks might assist refine speech-to-speech translation such that no human annotation is critical for coaching.

The necessity for expertise like this seems to be greater than ever. MultiLingual Journal reported in July that one Nevada county was not too long ago tasked with enhancing language entry for one more unwritten language: Shoshone. As a result of election ballots — written texts — can’t be translated adequately into Shoshone, the county will work with interpreters on the polls to assist Shoshone audio system vote of their native language.