Moses Bakst

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Why Language Translation is the Key to Innovation

My College Essay: Some Opinions and Some Personal Facts

Language is the means by which people come together. Without a common tongue, knowledge and experience are confined to a single individual. So why are there still over 7000 spoken languages today? How much knowledge is lost in translation?

I tried to solve this problem for myself. In addition to refining English, I took classes in Hebrew and Spanish to begin to understand the knowledge locked in those tongues. But that still left 6997 more dialects that I have to find some way of understanding. When I set out to catch all 807 Pokémon, I made sure to catch an Eevee. That Eevee netted nine separate Pokédex entries, expediting the mission to “Catch ‘em all.” So although it seemed counterproductive to learn a non-spoken language, Latin was that Eevee; I learned roots to dozens of languages at once. But much like the Eevee-lutions, the transition from Latin to its evolved forms is convoluted. Most of the original language is obscured in the vernacular of the new.

What if there were just one language all people spoke? Esperanto, created by L.L. Zamenhof, was meant to be that one-size-fits-all shoe. It comes without tangled laces of grammar exceptions or a stiff back of word limitations. Esperanto’s grammar is limited to only sixteen rules, and complicated words can be formed by simply using prefixes and suffixes. If the world had a common language, so many mistakes could have been avoided, and even lives could have been saved. The First Italo-Ethiopian War could have been prevented if not for a faulty translation. In 1889, the two nations signed a treaty with which they were both happy. In Amharic, the treaty was an alliance but in Italian, it was a surrender. If there would have been no need for translation, thousands of lives could have been spared from the resulting war.

Esperanto is a good idea, but I don’t think it should be used on a level higher than my friends and I having secret conversations in it. Although the shoe can fit on every foot, it doesn’t come in every style. While I only have one pair of snow boots, someone living in a cold environment would possibly own hiking-snow books, leisure-snow boots, running-snow boots, and many others. Similarly, languages like the Eskaleut have different words for ice and snow, each with its own connotation so much so that Esperanto’s “glacio” wouldn’t suffice. When preparing Model Congress speeches or pages in the Robotics notebook, I always think about which words I want to use– which meaning I seek to convey.

For any purpose, having only one means to accomplish a goal doesn’t necessarily make it easier. There has been little attempt to standardize computer languages, despite all being invented so recently. Learning Java in sophomore year, I had no idea there was anything more than that one language. As I studied further, however, I began wondering how this code could be used to create websites and Artificial Intelligence. The answer is– it can’t. While Java is the right tool to write an Android app or video game, HTML and CSS are the right languages for website design. Just like a “universal speaking language,” a “universal coding language” would not be accepted because it would steamroll over all of the special niches of the current languages, thereby creating more problems than it would solve.

I’ve realized the solution isn’t creating a new language. It’s to properly use the languages we have, focusing on bridging the translation gap. We want to evolve beyond early computer translators where users entered a word and the code would spit out its’ pre-programmed “correct” counterpart. I envision harnessing more complex Machine Learning algorithms to process entire paragraphs and understand the essence of the thought. My goal of language immersion– spoken and computer– is to help perfect the translation utilities, and to bring the world together under common words.

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I like History, Math, Computers and Food. Website will progress when I think of what to put here.

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