Pluricultural World and Web Multilinguality

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National Academy of Sciences - Bolivia

Language barrier and supremacy of English in the Web

Very often it has been stressed the relevance of linguistic and cultural aspects of the Information Society, as a critical factor to cope with the digital divide.

In Europe, the G7 Conference of Ministers on The Information Society and Development, has emphasized the fact that information technologies have a tremendous potential to preserve and exploit cultural and linguistic diversity. The Discussion Document (July 1997) Living and Working Together in the Information Society points out the central role that multilinguality should play in high-bandwith digital communications and the World Wide Web.

The GOOGLE Directory of web pages by language, currently covers 65 languages. In the near future in the Web, it is reasonable to expect the need of cross communication between those languages, therefore we should evaluate the costs of developing and implementing 4160 translation directions!

Development time and costs required for language-pairs-based MT systems conspire against the urgently needed coverage of more languages, like those less widely spoken but globally strategic languages. In this way it is practically impossible to think on a truly pluricultural world.


Communication between people of different cultures requires automatic translation in the Web in order to handle multilinguism as critical factor to bridge the digital divide.

Comparing the technical characteristics of the software produced by various developers, it is surprising to verify that currently, only the tiny R&D group IGRAL, from Bolivia with its ATAMIRI software, has been able to design and develop a truly multilingual machine translator, i.e. one program, one lexical and grammatical data base, supporting various languages capable of operating either as source or target language, with simultaneous translation from any source language to various target languages.

Commercial systems try to cover the multilingual demand with multiple programs and dictionaries developed by language pairs, mostly capable to operate only in one direction, few are bidirectional.


The estimated costs for the development and implementation of N languages in language pair transfer-based MT systems is proportional to the N(N-1) translation directions in the multilingual set. While for an interlingua-based system, like Atamiri’s technology, the costs are just proportional to the N languages.

In the case of 65 languages, Atamiri represents by far a more economic solution, by a factor of 64! Thus, new language implementations become feasible even for "minority" languages considered uninteresting for marketing.


A world wide implementation of ATAMIRI in the Web.

A worldwide cooperation is required to mobilize the competencies needed to address the multilinguality issue. As the creator of ATAMIRI, I urge leaders of institutions and corporations that promote Language Engineering projects and government authorities concerned with the problematic of Human Language Technologies, to support a thorough ATAMIRI assessment and benchmark activities to test its multilingual technology, translation quality improvement capacity and operational speed in the Web.

I am willing to facilitate the use of Atamiri's technology for one or more well coordinated Language Engineering Projects to implement real multilinguism in the Web with reasonable costs which won't need to be covered by people communicating with each other.

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