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Education Technology

The Future of SiLo's Language Library 38

i4u writes "Early this morning I had a chance to speak with Ase (pronounced 'Ace') Deliri, curator of SiLo, the world's first digital language library. At its core, SiLo is a mash of Wikipedia and Babelfish, an open database focused on facilitating real conversations with real people. 'If you have 800-1200 words in your vocabulary, you can carry on a daily conversation. That is what we are looking at. How do you get a conversation going?'"
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The Future of SiLo's Language Library

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    If you have 800-1200 words in your vocabulary, you can carry on a daily conversation.

    Vocabulary's great, but it's not enough. You also need to know something about how to put those words together. You need to know morphology and syntax.

    • by toastar ( 573882 )
      Vocabulary isn't everything
      http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm [mtholyoke.edu]
    • by blair1q ( 305137 )

      Did you understand Yoda?

      Grammar is not essential for communication, unless you need to get logical about something.

      • Did you understand Yoda?

        Grammar is not essential for communication, unless you need to get logical about something.

        Good luck trying to explain that you've already been to the shops in Chinese (which doesn't strictly have a past tense) or explaining who hit who in German (where it's not the word order that matters but the grammatical way the words change).

        • I dunno, I was able to communicate reasonably effectively with nothing more than some nouns, verbs, and prepositions. Of course, word order doesn't matter much in Japanese either, but just making gestures while saying a noun is often enough to get across a simple concept. Granted, I couldn't hold a conversation about why someone hates their boss at work, but I could definitely ask for directions, purchase things, ask what things were, and managed to muddle through ordering a pretty complicated train ticket

  • Toki Pona [wikipedia.org] is a constructed language with only 120-odd words plus a ton of idiomatic compounds.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      How can you offer a conlang as evidence that you only need 120 words. Nobody uses a conlang for day-to-day communication. A more intelligent example would be a creole such as Tok Pisin.

  • phrase book (Score:5, Interesting)

    by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Saturday April 30, 2011 @08:50PM (#35987774)
    I think the secret to a universal translator is to have a single perfectly defined artificial language and then to work out how to convert your desired language into that. Because all the translator work is targeting a single fixed target you only have to translate each language once instead of English to Spanish, English to french, English to Arabic, french to English, french to Spanish, french to etc. When converting into your chosen language you also need to track what you know. Some languages have gender to words, some give the married status of women etc but others don't so that will be missing. You'll have to alter/mark the translations to declare when some aspect of the target language isn't known. The common language would be incredibly complex (superset of all languages), but since nobody would use it directly that wouldn't matter.
    • Re:phrase book (Score:4, Informative)

      by FatLittleMonkey ( 1341387 ) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @01:46AM (#35988858)

      This has been tried. I believe that many early (crap) machine translation systems were based on that. Apparently it doesn't work. The super-language devolves into a database of one-to-one exceptions so quickly, that you might as well treat each language pair separately.

      (In the same way that human-readable programming languages always end up as just plain programming languages.)

    • It seems they're sort of attempting that. They give the example of a contributed translated phrase (not word, a whole phrase, so grammar gets parsed and translated correctly) from Zulu to English. Then, someone translates the same phrase from English to Chinese. A Zulu-speaking user could then look up the Zulu phrase, and would find translations for both English and Chinese.

      Will there be things lost in translation... of course. But I think it's not a bad idea, because it's relying on human translations, not

      • I have to correct myself, it's not flash. It's really, really awful javascript. It felt like a badly done flash interface. I think in its current state it's probably worse than flash would be, actually.

      • Controlled English is probably referring to the subset of English that is a formal language developed at the University of Zurich.
  • That's always a good conversation starter.

  • Seems a bit naive to think that there is a single language called 'aborigine'.

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan