Meta builds AI machine to translate Igbo, other African languages

Zuckerberg shifts attention from Facebook to Meta
Zuckerberg shifts attention from Facebook to Meta

US tech conglomerate, Meta has announced an open-sourced single Artificial Intelligence model that can translate across 200 different languages, including Igbo and 55 African languages

This is in the company’s bid to improve and extend language translations on Facebook, Instagram, and Wikipedia.

The ‘No Language Left Behind’ NLLB-200 was created in an effort to develop high-quality machine translation capabilities for most of the world’s low-resource languages and will focus on African languages.

The firm explained that AI models require lots and lots of data to help them learn, and there is not a lot of human-translated training data for these languages.

It said, “We worked with professional translators for each of these languages to develop a reliable benchmark which can automatically assess translation quality for many low-resource languages.

“We also work with professional translators to do human evaluation too, meaning people who speak the languages natively evaluate what the AI produced. The reality is that a handful of languages dominate the web, so only a fraction of the world can access content and contribute to the web in their own language.

“We want to change this by creating more inclusive machine translations systems – ones that unlock access to the web for the more than 4B people around the world that are currently excluded because they do not speak one of the few languages content is available in.”

The Public Policy Director for Africa, Balkissa Ide Siddo, said, “Africa is a continent with very high linguistic diversity, and language barriers exist day to day.

“We are pleased to announce that 55 African languages will be included in this machine translation research, making it a major breakthrough for our continent. In the future, imagine visiting your favourite Facebook group, coming across a post in Igbo or Luganda, and being able to understand it in your own language with just a click of a button – that’s where we hope research like this leads us.

“Highly accurate translations in more languages could also help to spot harmful content and misinformation, protect election integrity, and curb instances of online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”

Meta’s Chief Executive Officer, Mark Zuckerberg, added, “It’s impressive how much AI is improving all of our services.

“We just open-sourced an AI model we built that can translate across 200 different languages — many of which aren’t supported by current translation systems. We call this project No Language Left Behind, and the AI modelling techniques we used are helping make high-quality translations for languages spoken by billions of people around the world.

“To give a sense of the scale, the 200-language model has over 50 billion parameters, and we trained it using our new Research SuperCluster, which is one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers. The advances here will enable more than 25 billion translations every day across our apps.

“Communicating across languages is one superpower that AI provides, but as we keep advancing our AI work it’s improving everything we do — from showing the most interesting content on Facebook and Instagram, to recommending more relevant ads, to keeping our services safe for everyone.”

According to Meta, language is human’s culture, identity, and lifeline to the world. And since high-quality translation tools don’t exist for hundreds of languages, billions of people can’t access digital content or participate fully in conversations and communities online in their preferred or native languages.

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