Silicon Valley Here We Come!

Dakwak, the effortless website translation technology provider, has secured a $100,000 investment from 500 Startups in a second round of seed investment.

In addition to the investment, Dakwak will be joining 500 Startups Accelerator Program (Spring batch 2013), which is one of the top 5 accelerator programs worldwide! Dakwak’s team has headed to the heart of Silicon Valley to receive top-notch mentorship and direct access to the most developed technology community in the world in order to take the product to the next level.

Dakwak is looking to raise $400,000 in this round. $100,000 were already secured from MENA Venture Investments. And with the investment of 500 Startups, $200,000 remain to be seized by potential investors.

A big warm thank you goes to Dave McClure and the 500 Startups team for giving us their time and support, and for making this happen!

Saving Endangered Languages Through Digital Technology

Often blamed for propelling endangered languages into extinction, globalization, technology and the internet may in fact be able to accomplish the opposite and save our world’s fragile languages from disappearing altogether. And what a needed task that is because according to UNESCO, unless something is done, only half of the 6000 plus languages spoken worldwide today will exist by the end of this century.

The good news is, something is being done. To help preserve eight endangered languages, K David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore College, and National Geographic have developed online talking dictionaries, which feature more than 24,000 audio recordings by native speakers and over 32,000 word entries. Some of the endangered languages included in the talking dictionaries are: Matukar Panau (Papua New Guinea); Chamacoco (Paraguay); Remo (India); and Tuvan (Siberia and Mongolia).

Language Extinction Hot-Spot by National Geographic

Harrison also believes text messaging, and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are providing the ideal means for speakers of endangered languages to “expand their voice and expand their presence.”

Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) is one example. Spoken by only a few hundred people in Canada and the United States, this Native American language is being kept alive via a website and Facebook page thanks to the efforts of Margaret Noori, professor of Native American studies at the University of Michigan.

Mobile apps can also help revive languages on the brink of extinction. Ma! Iwaidja is a smartphone app designed to prevent the disappearance of Iwaidja, an indigenous language spoken by less than 200 people on Croker Island, Australia. The free app, which includes a 1500-entry English-Iwaidja dictionary with audio and a 450-entry phrase book, allows users to easily upload and update entries, which they soon will also be able to share via an online database.

Sources:

BBC

CNN

Lack of Technology Support Driving Most European Languages into Digital Extinction

According to a team of European researchers, including scientists from the University of Manchester’s National Centre for Text Mining (NaCTeM), an astounding 21 European languages are facing digital extinction due to insufficient language technology software support.

In today’s high tech environment, language technology software is everything; it includes machine translation systems, web search engines, spelling and grammar checkers, speech processing, and smartphone personal assistants, such as Apple’s Siri. The problem is these technologies are not available in most European languages.

The study evaluated language technology support (excellent, good, moderate, fragmentary and weak/no support) for each European language across four areas: automatic translation, speech interaction, text analysis and availability of language resources.

Receiving the lowest scores in all areas (weak/no support), Icelandic, Latvian, Lithuanian and Maltese were at the highest risk for extinction. Basque, Bulgarian, Catalan, Greek, Hungarian and Polish showed fragmentary support and are therefore also at risk. Languages receiving moderate support included Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. View the complete results of the study here.

What do these results reveal? To the researchers it is clear: unless language technology support is available for these languages, they may soon disappear altogether from our digital world.

Sources:

Science Daily

META-NET

Celebrities Invest in Recession-Proof Language Services Industry

Since 2008, only a handful of industries have escaped the economic pitfalls of the global recession and even fewer can say they experienced growth. The language services industry is one of them. According to Common Sense Advisory, the language services industry has experienced a rapid and steady growth even in the face of a harsh economic climate; in 2008 the market totaled US$14.25 billion and today it is worth US$33.5 billion. It is indeed a buzzing market and is projected to keep growing at an annual rate of 12.17%.

What makes the language services industry virtually immune to the recession? Primarily globalization driven by the help of the internet. More and more companies are realizing the importance of international selling and are focusing their efforts on breaking cultural and language barriers, and reaching global audiences through language services providers.

The language services market holds such great potential for financial opportunity and increasing international brand awareness that even celebrities are investing in language technology.

Actor Ashton Kutcher, also an avid tech investor, and best-selling author Tim Ferriss, both backed the startup DuoLingo, a language-learning website and crowd-sourced translation platform. In 2011, member of rock back KISS, Gene Simmons, became business partner and spokesperson for Ortsbo, a machine translation technology that supports major social media platforms.

Entrepreneur and CEO of Salesforce.com, Marc Benioff, is yet another well-known personality who invested in Cloudwords, a cloud-based translation platform. Who is the latest celebrity to inject funds into a language technology company? That would be business tycoon and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, who recently financed LinguaSys, an international provider of human language technologies including the machine translation software, Carabao.

No doubt, language and global business go hand in hand; more accurately, global trade could not exist without the technology to bridge the gap between language boundaries. It should come as no surprise then that translation tools/software is one of the fastest growing and most in-demand service today.

Source: Common Sense Advisory