Chile, U.S. working on program to translate Indian language.
Santiago, Oct 20, 2001 (EFE via COMTEX)

- Chilean and U.S. specialists are working on the first computer program that translates between Spanish and Mapudungun, the language of Chile's indigenous Mapuche people.

The program is part of a project that aims to develop instantaneous translation systems for the indigenous languages of the Americas. Mapudungun and Alaska's Inupiak are the first languages addressed by project developers, who hope to start work on Peru's Quechua and Colombia's Siona. The Mapudungun-Spanish program is a joint endeavor of the Institute of Indigenous Studies of Chile's Universidad de la Frontera and the Language Technologies Institute at the United States' Carnegie-Mellon University. The final program will be available for free downloading from the Internet. Researcher Eliseo Canulef of the Universidad de la Frontera at Temuco is working on transcribing oral accounts from the Mapudungun language, which has few written texts. The computer will work out a program based on "the statistical correlations between the languages," Canulef told the daily El Mercurio. "The project's technological and scientific challenge is to have the computer program 'learn' Mapudungun and relate it to other languages," Canulef said.