Interlingual Technology Overview

Notes from a Presentation to Esperantic Studies Foundation

Christie Evans and Jonathan Robert Pool
Revised 2004/07/22

World trends in language-related technology

What is interlingual technology?

Fields of interlingual technology

World trends in language-related technology

Growth of information-processing power:

Growth of Internet use:

Growth of language diversity on the Internet:

Recent changes:

Current distribution:

What is interlingual technology?

Candidate Definition

Interlingual technology is technology which by design or effect promotes or facilitates communication that, in the absence of such technology, would be prevented or impaired by language diversity.

Main fields:

Fields of interlingual technology

Translation technology


Prototypical purpose: Render A's production of content into language known by B so B can consume it without A or B learning any language not already known.

Obstacles to (automatic) translation:

Solution strategies

Notions of translation automation:

Overlapping automation methods include:

These methods differ in whether translator attempts to "understand" the original.

Examples of problems

Polysemy (see Smith, TMRL, 1989, 86-87): "Se vi estas esperantisto, vi devas paroli Esperanton." Translatable into English as:

Ambiguity (see Hutchins, MTTASPUP, 2002):


State of the art

Consensus: Nothing exists that approximates fully automatic high-quality translation of content of any kind about anything in any language into any other language.

Internet-based translation services: FreeTranslator. Examples:

The authorities encouraged smog and pollution control.
FreeTranslation Les autorités ont encouragé du smog et le contrôle de la pollution.
BabelFish/SYSTRAN Le brouillard enfumé et la lutte contre la pollution encouragés par autorités.
PROMT-Reverso Les autorités ont encouragé le contrôle de pollution et le smog(le brouillard de pollution).
InterTran Les autorités encourager smog et pollution le contrat.

Progress forecasts

How to operationalize progress. Reduction in cost of high-quality translation?

Consensus: There is no basis for a forecast when, if ever, fully automatic high-quality translation of content of any kind about anything in any language into any other language will exist.



Prototypical purpose: Make an information system usable by anybody, so that the user experience is equivalent, regardless of the languages and conventions known and preferred by the user.

Why localization is hard:

Problem example: Can letter case be manipulated language-independently?

Solution strategies

Localization notions:

Styles of localization:

State of the art

Recommendations for localized software development: "Globalization Step-by-Step".

The Translation Project: "aims to get the maintainers of free software packages, benevolent translators, and users all together, so that computers and systems (like Linux or GNU) gradually become able to speak many languages." Results tabulated in Translation Matrix.

Example of an internationalized Web site

Unicode character pallette.

Unicode in 9 browsers.

Indicator of status quo: 10 firms pay for listings on a major search engine under the search string "multilingual Web site".

Progress forecasts

Is localization a norm? Is it increasingly a necessity?

The capability to display web sites in multiple languages is growing in importance every day. Two years ago almost the entire Internet spoke English as a first language. Today less than half the Internet speaks English as a first language. In another year this figure will be even less. If you were telephoning someone in another country, you would know that to communicate accurately you would have to speak their language. This same simple fact is true for all web sites. (
Surveys show that Internet users are twice as likely to stay at a given site and three times as likely to make inquiries over the Internet if the content of the site is communicated in their own language. (

Motivation: Is it really profitable to market Jeep Cherokees in Cherokee?

Language learning


Prototypical purpose: Give A competence in a language so A may produce and consume content in it, thereby avoiding translation.

Solution strategies

Notions of language-learning technology:

State of the art

Consensus: The application of information technology and artificial intelligence to language learning has not yet substantially improved the competence achievable per unit of investment in group instruction, but has substantially decreased the cost barriers to isolated, on-demand, and specialized language learning.

Web-based instructional support (Esperanto)

Web-based language learning (Esperanto)

Progress forecasts

I need, therefore I will?

Sleep learning? "Walk in, promenu out?"

Interlingual design


Prototypical purpose: Design or modify a language so it promotes or facilitates communication that is prevented or impaired by language diversity.

Language types

Regularized novel synthetic human language.

Disambiguated version of existing human language.

Automated controlled content-elicitation system.

Effect types

Translation interlinguas

Translation input media

Localization canonical representations

Learning appetizers

Learning objects

Progress forecasts

Controlled input progressing because of recognized value.

Use of designed human language for learning promotion may depend on ESF.