With the aim of strengthening support for all major Indian languages, Microsoft India announced the addition of four new languages: Bhojpuri, Bodo, Dogri, and Kashmiri, to Microsoft Translator. With this latest release, Microsoft Translator now supports a total of 20 Indian languages, including Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Nepali, Odia, Punjabi, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. This brings Microsoft Translator a step closer to its goal of supporting all 22 official Indian languages and now covers the languages spoken by almost 95% of the country’s population.
With the enhanced coverage, Microsoft Translator will enable opportunities for better education and literacy by assisting comprehension in native languages, improved governance, communication, and information outreach in native languages. It will open new economic opportunities for local artisans and businesses, allowing them to connect with a broader audience. Most importantly, this expansion contributes to the preservation of indigenous knowledge and cultural identity by bridging the gap to the mainstream.
The translation feature can be accessed through the Microsoft Translator app, Edge browser, Office 365, Bing Translator, and the Azure AI Translator API for businesses and developers, which is being used by companies such as Jio Haptik and Koo. Users can translate between the newly introduced languages and more than 135 languages for their apps, websites, workflows, and tools with Azure AI Translator. Businesses can also avail multi-language support for translation of e-content, e-commerce product catalogues, product documentation, and internal communication, among others.
This new update will impact close to 61 million people. Bhojpuri is spoken by around 51 million people in eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. Bodo is spoken by approximately 1.4 million people in the states of Assam and Meghalaya and neighboring Bangladesh. Dogri is spoken by 1.6 million people in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Punjab. Kashmiri is spoken by around 7 million in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of neighboring Pakistan. Access to technology-based solutions across language markers drives democratic empowerment. Microsoft's collaboration with Jio Haptik and the integration with Microsoft Translator plays a pivotal role in bridging linguistic divides and empowering India's diverse communities through technology access for all major Indian languages.
Swapan Rajdev, Co-founder & CTO, Jio Haptik said, "Multilingual support, especially for Indian languages, is crucial for any company striving to provide top-tier customer service in India. It reflects a brand's commitment to diversity. While most software supports the commonly used Indian languages, Azure's plan to expand its offerings in Indic languages takes it much further! This development is quite exciting for Haptik because it offers our customers the opportunity to be more inclusive and reach a wider audience. They can now provide support in languages like Bhojpuri, Bodo, Kashmiri, Dogri – which is phenomenal! In fact, we have observed that Haptik's multilingual bots experience increased usage, further highlighting the significance of catering to users in their preferred language."
Koo's business too has made positive inroads, facilitating inclusive communication and fostering the growth of digital communities.
Harsh Singhal, Head of Machine Learning, Koo said, “At Koo, we are focused on fostering connectivity and empowering diverse communities to thrive in a digital world. 80% of the world speaks a native language, other than English and Koo is committed to providing these native speakers a voice to express themselves in their language. Translation plays a critical role in enabling us to break language barriers and with Microsoft Azure we have been able to do millions of translations seamlessly across 60 languages, including 10 Indian languages, thereby paving the way for digital communities to flourish.”
Rajiv Kumar, Managing Director, India Development Center, Microsoft India said, “We believe that technology should serve as a bridge, enabling everyone to reach their full potential. We are dedicated to creating solutions that enable accessibility and broaden the reach of technology and language as a medium to empower every individual on the planet. We are happy to introduce Bhojpuri, Bodo, Dogri, and Kashmiri on Microsoft Translator and move closer to our goal of supporting 22 official Indian languages. We stay committed to supporting India’s diverse languages and culture by leveraging the most advanced AI technology to drive the country’s growth and make access to technology more inclusive.”
Bringing Deep Neural Networks to language translation
Microsoft has been using Deep Neural Networks to develop language models for translating and transliterating complex Indian languages. Deep Neural Networks are also sensitive to minor linguistic nuances such as gender (feminine, masculine, neutral), politeness level (slang, casual, written, formal), and word type (verb, noun, adjective). Microsoft continuously improves the translation models in line with tech advancements and usage, and releases newer, improved versions in a transparent manner.