This is definitely a good news for the reduction of the digital gap in Cambodia: the Google Translate, has released the Khmer translation option that would make the Cambodian language accessible to 65 other global language. It is good to congratulate all persons and organizations working to make computers and Internet accessible to Cambodians in their own language, as well as Khmer language, the main modern branch of the Mon-Khmer linguistic family and a relative to Sanskrit and Pali accessible to the international community. It will be a benefit to students, teachers, journalists, economist, officials and everybody involved in the digital development of Cambodia.
Although Google Translate is one of the most popular tools, there are other softwares on the run such as the online English-Khmer Dictionary, but with the Google tool, you can translate from Polish to Khmer directly or read a Khmer online newspaper in Italian.
The Internet Cambodian revolution is marked by the development of the Khmer Unicode under the care of Open Institute and the leadership of Dr. Norbert Klein, current Immediate Past President of the Cambodian Chapter of the Internet Society. In an informal talk with Dr. Klein early March, he told me how difficult was to introduce Khmer Unicode even with official departments, until it was widely used and appreciated. Surely the support of companies like Google and the development of the Khmer Wikipedia, a project where I have been working with my students since 2006, has contributed to the development of a Khmer Internet to the benefit of not only those inside Cambodia, but Khmer readers around the planet.
‘What better way to start Cambodian new year than with the addition of the Khmer language to Google Translate as our 66th supported language. We hope that this will help open up the web to Khmer speakers and likewise make Khmer content more accessible to the rest of the world.’
In fact it will help us all very much and we hope that more Cambodians can profit of education, information and good entertainment online, especially if we can see the increase of a qualified content in the Khmer language.
Google says also that Khmer now meets their standards to be launched with alpha status, that means it is an early version of the translation system that will be usable in many situations, but may not be adequate for all. It has also the virtual keyboard in case you want to type in Khmer but do not have Khmer keyboard handy and the ability to read Khmer text phonetically for users who don’t read Khmer alphabet.
‘Khmer is a challenging language for translation systems for two reasons: There isn’t a lot of Khmer data on the web and words are not usually separated by spaces; so in addition to teaching our translation system a new language, it also has to learn how to separate words (what we call segmentation)’ said Google.