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BYU Humanities and BYU Speeches Team Up for Translation Initiative

BYU speeches and forums now available in Japanese and Spanish—with more languages to come!

Followers of BYU Speeches have been asking for translated speeches for as long as the platform has existed but it has never been a possibility—until now. Collaboration between BYU Speeches, the College of Humanities, computer science professors, and language students enabled the platform to begin offering pages in Spanish and Japanese, with more languages to come.

Charles Cranney, senior manager of Digital Media at BYU Brand & Creative, oversees the translation initiative. The College of Humanities helped the program get off the ground, thanks to the translation and language expertise in the College. “This wouldn’t have happened without the College of Humanities,” confirms Cranney. Collaboration between the College and BYU Speeches resulted in the decision that Spanish and Japanese would serve as the pilot languages for the translation initiative.

Joining them to help with the more technical side of things is Steve Richardson, associate professor of computer science and an expert in machine translation. Richardson helped train students to use machine translation tools such as Trados. Additionally, Richardson used his connections at the Church to get access to the Church translation memories—large databases of pre-translated words, scriptures, and phrases that sped up the translation process and assured continuity with other Church materials.

Naturally, students have been deeply involved in the project since the beginning, translating speeches as an experiential learning opportunity. These students were able to develop a whole repertoire of useful skills such as project management, collaboration, hands-on translation, translation software, computer programming, digital voices, and more. The real-world experiences that students gained prepared them for jobs in the translation business after college and gave them excellent portfolio pieces they could show off to future employers.

The translation process consists of five steps. They begin by using machine translation to get a general manuscript, then two students review that translation for errors. Once the draft translation is cleaned up, it gets sent to a crowdsourced community of native speakers to review it one more time. The text is then uploaded on the website, and text-to-audio software provides an audio file from the translation for visitors to listen to.

The translations have been well received so far, and the translation team is excited to continue to offer more languages in the future. Next year two more languages, which have yet to be determined, will be added to the website, and the program will continue to evolve from that point based on audience reactions.

Read more about the initiative and learn how to get involved in this BYU Speeches blog post.