Sherab Lhamo

Amid current debate over the deteriorating quality of Dzongkha language, the addition of Dzongkha in the machine translation platform Google Translate has been hailed by many as a positive step that will help boost the use of national language.

The inclusion of Dzongkha in Google Tranlsate comes two years after the Department of Culture and Dzongkha Development (DCDD) requested Google to use DDC Uchen font in its translation feature.

Calling it a major breakthrough, blogger Passang Tshering, popularly known as Passu Diary, wrote on his Facebook page, “I never thought technology giant like Google would give a hoot about Dzongkha, a language hardly spoken by a few hundred thousands and read by even fewer.”

Google Translate allows translation of text from English to Dzongkha and Dzongkha to English. Currently, it does not have features to convert images or documents directly into Dzongkha.

A DCDD official said that the Dzongkha feature in Google Translate requires a lot of fine-tuning and refining as it only provides direct translation of text.

A Dzongkha translator said that as of now, the Dzongkha feature in Google Translate is quite basic with direct translation and swapping of words from English to Dzongkha without considering the overall context and meaning.

“However, improvements in the Dzongkha translation feature will defintely make translation jobs much easier in the future.”

The former CEO of Thimphu TechPark and one of the current Comissioners of the Royal Civil Service Commission, Dr Tshering Cigay, said that it is an amazing achievement for Dzongkha language, used by a small population, to be included in Google Translate.

He said that this feature comes at a crucial time when efforts are underway to spark the youth’s interest in the national language. “This tool will definitely help in our efforts to further preserve and promote our national language. And we should make the best use of it,” Dr Tshering Cigay said.

He said that many translators are engaged in the translation of a range of official and legal documents from Dzongkha to English and the Google Translate feature should make their jobs much easier now.

“Machine translation like Google Translate could also help struggling Dzongkha newspapers by reducing editor workload,” Dr Tshering Cigay said.

Meanwhile, DCDD is also developing natural language processing system to help translate Dzongkha to English and vice versa.