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App helping to remove communication barriers

By Cui Jia | China Daily | Updated: 2017-03-23 07:18

Translation application aids Uygur, Mandarin speakers in conversation

Taking his mobile phone out of his pocket, Wushore Silam proudly showed people the voice translation app that can accurately translate between Mandarin and the Uygur language.

"It's not only a translation app, it's a practical tool to remove communication barriers among people from different ethnic groups," said the 75-year-old from the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. "Communication is the foundation of ethnic unity."

Wushore, the only Uygur academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, specializes in the computer input system of the Uygur language and translation technologies between Uygur and other languages.

Not all Uygurs in Xinjiang can speak Mandarin, especially in the rural areas, so Han Chinese and Uygurs often need to find a translator to help them talk, he said.

App helping to remove communication barriers

"I find it very time-consuming, and the translation is not even accurate sometimes, so I decided to develop an app that serves as a pocket translator," he said. "I'm so proud to see my academic research put to such good use."

The free app, available since October, already has more than 500,000 users, and the number is growing, despite never being advertised, according to Wushore.

"The app's accuracy for daily expressions between Mandarin and Uygur is about 85 percent. We will further improve the accuracy by analyzing the big data of different accents and words collected from app users," he said.

Wang Xingyi, 32, a businessman from Kashgar in southwestern Xinjiang, said: "I downloaded the app in January after seeing my friend using it. I now use it on a daily basis. I wish someone had developed it sooner."

He said he uses the app to talk with Uygur taxi drivers and for bargaining with local vendors. "They seem impressed and asked me how to download it," Wang said.

"The regional high court in Xinjiang has shown great interest in the app as well and expressed hopes that we can include more legal terms in it so they can use it in court trials," he said.

For Wushore, helping people from different ethnic groups in Xinjiang to better understand each other is not enough. His ultimate goal is to enable people along the Silk Road Economic Belt to have no problem communicating.

Many central Asian languages, like Kazakh and Uzbek, belong to the Altaic language family, the same as Uygur, so the app can be easily upgraded to translate between those languages and Mandarin, he added.

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