Meta’s AI Model Translates 200 Languages

Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) posted news titled: “New AI Model Translates 200 Languages, Making Technology Accessible to More People”.

Meta started with two “Takeaways”:

Our latest AI model, NLLB-200, can translate 200 different languages and improves the quality of translations across our technologies by an average of 44%

NLLB-200 makes current technologies accessible in a wider range of languages, and in the future will help make virtual experiences more accessible, as well.

Here are some key points from Meta’s News:

“To help people connect better today and be part of the metaverse of tomorrow, our AI researchers created No Language Left Behind (NLLB), an effort to develop high-quality machine translation capabilities for most of the world’s languages. Today, we’re announcing an important breakthrough in NLLB: We’ve built a single AI model called NLLB-200, which translates 200 different languages, with results far more accurate than what previous technology could accomplish.

“When comparing the quality of translations to previous AI research, NLLB-200 scored an average of 44% higher. For some African and Indian-based languages, NLLB-200’s translations were more than 70% accurate.

In addition, Meta is awarding up to $200,000 of grants for impactful uses of NLLB-200 to researchers and nonprofit organizations with initiatives focused on sustainability, food security, gender-based violence, education, or other areas in support of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Meta also says that nonprofits interested in using the NLLB-200 to translate two or more African languages, as well as researchers working in linguistics, machine translation and language technology, are invited to apply.

The Verge posted an article that started with: “Meta’s ambitions to build a ‘universal translator’ continue”. According to The Verge, experts in machine translation said that Meta’s latest research was ambitious and thorough, but noted that the quality in some of the model’s translations would likely be well below that of better-supported languages like Italian or German.

The Verge also pointed out: Translation is a difficult task at the best of times, and machine translation can be notoriously flaky. When applied at scale on Meta’s platforms, even a small number of errors can produce disastrous results – as for example, when Facebook mistranslated a post by a Palestinian man from “good morning” to “hurt them,” leading to his arrest by Israeli police.

In my opinion, human language is not something that an AI can reliably translate. There are nuances in the words people choose, with meanings that could easily be missed by an AI – especially in languages where one word can hold more than one meaning. I cannot imagine that NLLB-200 has the capability to translate puns or poetry.

Meta, however, appears to be insistent on creating the newest version of the Rosetta Stone.