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Innovative Gaelic translation service launched

20 November 2012

An innovative service which helps people involved in Gaelic translation work is being launched today. TòMaS, the first ever translation memory service for Gaelic, aims to speed up the translation process and ensure greater consistency across texts.

The service is based around computer software. The programme stores previously translated text so it can suggest ready-made translations when new pieces are uploaded. By encouraging many different people and organisations to use the software, its bank of translated material grows, making the service increasingly effective. It works a bit like a mobile phone's predictive text when it comes across new words.

TòMaS will be of use to both in-house and freelance translators as well as the companies that use them. Organisations that have already signed up to use it include the Scottish Parliament, Forestry Commission, NHS Highland, Scottish Natural Heritage and Stòrlann, an organisation that produces and distributes Gaelic curriculum resources.

TòMaS has been developed by the University of the Highlands and Islands learning and information services department. As the first Scottish higher education institution to implement a Gaelic Language Plan, the university is committed to communicating bilingually and frequently translates English into Gaelic.

Staff initially intended to develop the service to ensure translations are consistent across its partnership of thirteen colleges and specialist research organisations, but soon saw the potential of making the service available to a wider audience. 

Explaining why the university is launching the service, Ruairidh Mackay, Gaelic technology service developer, said: “With organisations implementing their Gaelic language plans and the expected increase in Gaelic publications that this is expected to entail, UHI felt there was an opportunity to bring organisations and translators together to develop a networked approach to translation processes. Service partners can access previously translated material which will help with consistency and save time. The money this saves can then go back into delivering more Gaelic material within the organisation.”

Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Bòrd na Gàidhlig have provided grants to set up TòMaS and it is hoped the service will ultimately become self-sustainable.  

Speaking about the resource, David Boag, Bòrd na Gàidhlig’s head of Gaelic usage, said: “The TòMaS project will undoubtedly strengthen the consistency and efficiency of Gaelic translation work undertaken by Scottish public authorities, which will in turn result in a better service for the public. The development of resources such as TòMaS is consistent with our development priorities outlined in the National Gaelic Language Plan 2012-17 and this is proof of the important role that new technology plays in supporting and growing the day-to-day use and visibility of Gaelic.”

HIE is contributing £30,000 towards the development of the service. Neil Ross, head of community growth at HIE, said: “TòMaS creates an opportunity to increase the consistency and quality of translation as well as boost productivity and reduce translation costs. This will in turn lead to the possibility of greater volumes of material being made available in Gaelic. HIE is keen to see the web-accessed service quickly evolve into a commercially viable model, enabling subscribers and translators to contribute and benefit from it even from our most remote communities.”

You can find out more about the service here or by contacting Ruairidh Mackay on 01463 279341 or at ruairidh.mackay@uhi.ac.uk


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