Many people were concerned that the Mayan calendar predicted the end of the world on December 21st 2012. Microsoft research, however, took the optimistic view and demonstrated a Mayan to Spanish translation system.
For the Mayan community December 21st was the date that marked the end of the 13th B’ak’tun and the beginning of the 14th. This was an auspicious date for unveiling the latest addtion to the Microsoft Translator hub, a translation model that can translated from Yucatec, a dialect of Mayan, to Spanish and vice versa.
Like other languages that Microsoft Research has stepped in to help, the future of the Mayan language is uncertain. Earlier this year Recotor of the Universidad Intercultural Maya de Quintana Roo Francisco Javier Rosado-May had told Microsoft Research Connection Director Kristin Tolle:
“If we do not do anything to stop it, Mayan will be extinct within two generations.”
So for past few months the university has been working to add data to the Microsoft translational system.
At the launch event held at the Mayan eco-archaeological park in Carmen Del playa, Professor Francisco Rosado-May said:
“The Translator Hub by Microsoft is not only a powerful software that facilitates the proper communication between Maya and Spanish but it is also a very important tool to achieve one of the strategic goals of our university: to preserve and increase the use of Maya. Language is the genetic code of any culture, by understanding and using a lot more Maya, we also understand better the mental processes that trigger the construction of knowledge. In the case of Maya, that means understanding how they created sophisticated knowledge such as the zero, astronomy, mathematics, etc. This is why my University and I appreciate so much what Microsoft is doing with the Translator Hub.”
Microsoft Mexico is committed to this project to re-energize Mayan society. As its director Juan Alberto González Esparza, explains:
“Think for a moment of a situation where a Spanish speaker and a Maya person communicate with one another in their own languages using a computer or a phone. This is the world that Microsoft has imagined and now this is a reality thanks the Microsoft Translator HUB-Maya; that brings to the new age the Mayan language with all its culture, meanings, stories and lifestyle that will be preserved and available to everyone worldwide. This is the way we are generating a real impact in vulnerable communities connecting people with the potential of our technology.”