Today is UNESCO’s International Mother Language Day, and as we celebrate language diversity, we have a chance to reflect on the role Microsoft plays in the preservation of language and culture.
Our goal for more than 30 years has been to bring technology into the hands of more citizens around the world. However, with 7 billion people in the world speaking countless various languages, bringing technology to all their homes is a challenge, but one that Microsoft’s Local Language Program is working hard to surmount.
The Local Language Program focuses on developing and tailoring Microsoft products to grant minority language speakers similar access to technology as someone speaking a mainstream language. Consider Spain, a country with more than 47 million citizens and five languages. Seventy-four percent of the population speaks Castilian Spanish, but 26 percent speak Valencian, Basque, Catalan or Galician. In a modern world ripe with technology, these precious languages – symbols of culture and heritage – could be lost forever.
Fortunately, through the technology of Local Interface Packs (LIPS) and Caption Language Interface Packs (CLIPS), these languages have the opportunity to survive for generations to come. In addition, native speakers can now engage with technology like never before and build skills for a brighter future.
Francisco Masquefa, Director, Albal Institut in the Valencian region of Spain, said, “Now, students get to use the same software programs as children in schools all over the world—while reinforcing their fluency in Valencian and familiarity with other languages through the CLIP software… I believe that the future of Valencian is connected to our students’ ability to speak the language of technology and their native language at the same time.”
The Local Language Program includes many programs, products and services focusing on the importance of language and culture. Today on the Building Windows 8 blog, we disclosed new local language features that will be supported in Windows 8. Currently, Microsoft provides translation tools in 46 languages, and Windows and Office in nearly 100 languages, reaching more than 90 percent of the global population. Additionally, to show our continued commitment to enable language communities to protect the longevity and vitality of their languages, we’re working on a tool called Microsoft Translator Hub that enables the development of custom community built translation models.
With the tools announced today, in honor of International Mother Language Day, we are excited to reach even more citizens of the world. These are great examples of how Microsoft continues to find ways to support language preservation and translation, leading to better economic opportunities through giving more people access to technology.