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Language and Translation Industry of India: A Historical and Cultural Perspective (XVIII FIT World Congress 2008, Shanghai, China)


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Title: Language and Translation Industry of India: A Historical and Cultural Perspective (XVIII FIT World Congress 2008, Shanghai, China)

Language and Translation Industry of India A
Historical and Cultural Perspective (XVIII FIT
World Congress 2008, Shanghai, China)
  • Ravi Kumar
  • President
  • Indian Translators Association, New Delhi, India
  • E-mail

A Glance at Languages of India
  • As per Census 1961 count- 1652 mother tongues
    belonging to five different language families.
    Apart from them 527 mother tongues were
    considered unclassifiable at that time.
  • As per Census 2001 count -1635 mother tongues
    were classified as 1635 rationalized mother
    tongues and 1957 names which were treated as
    unclassified and relegated to the other
    mother tongue category.
  • The 1635 rationalized mother tongues were further
    classified into 234 mother tongues and grouped
    under 122 languages.

A Glance at Languages of India
  • 122 languages have been further grouped under
  • Indo-European 24 languages, with a total
    population of 76.89, divided into Indo-Aryan
    (21), Iranian (2) and Germanic (1)
  • Dravidian 17 languages, with a total population
    of 20.82
  • Austro-Asiatic 14 languages, with a total
    population of 1.11
  • Tibeto-Burman 66 languages with a total
    population of 0.01
  • Semito-Hermitic 1 language, with a total
    population of 0.01.

A Glance at Languages of India
A Glance at Languages of India
  • Twenty-two Indian languages, namely
  • Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kashmiri,
  • Kannada, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri,
  • Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit,
  • Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Maithili,
  • Santhali, Dogri and Bodo are spoken by 96.56 of
    the population of the country and the remaining
    3.44 of the population speak the rest of the

A Legacy of Multi-lingualism
  • Ancient writers used to switch between Pali,
    Sanskrit, Tamil and Ardhmagadhi.
  • During medieval period, many scholars had
    mastered Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic.
  • Throughout the history, scholars have been
    concerned about use of simple language to reach
    common mass in their local languages, on the
    other hand languages of the scholars have been
    different than those for common mass.

A Legacy of Multi-lingualism and Bi-lingualism
  • Linguistically India, with its States and Union
    Territories, is made of many mini-Indias. Those
    who are multilingual constitute some 20 of the
    total population.
  • Mobility between different states within India
    makes it mandatory to be multi-lingual.

A Legacy of Recorded Bilingualism
  • One of the significant features of Indian
    bilingualism is that it is complementary. For
    example, an individual may use a particular
    language at home, another in the neighborhood and
    the bazaar, and still another in certain formal
    domains such as education, administration, and
    the like. (J.C. Sharma)

Language Policies in India
  • The Constitution of India listed fourteen
    languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi,
    Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya,
    Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu) into
    its Eighth Schedule in 1950.
  • Since then, this has been expanded thrice, once
    to include Sindhi, at another time to include
    Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali.
  • and most recent one to include Bodo, Santhali,
    Maithili and Dogri. The 100th Constitutional
    Amendment which added these four languages into
    the Eighth Schedule was supported by all the 338
    members present in the Parliament.
  • It has been stated that claims of 33 more
    languages for inclusion are under consideration.

Language Policies in India
  • It is worth mentioning the encouraging reports by
    UNESCO that has appreciated Indias stand on
    "maintaining linguistic diversity ... (when)
    about half of the approximately 6000 languages
    spoken in the world are under threat, seriously
    endangered or dying, "it does appreciate that
    "India has maintained its extensive and
    well-catalogued linguistic diversity".

Digital Divide
  • It is interesting to note that though the
    Information Technology boom has brought a
    revolution to India and Indian computer wizards
    are making waves in the Silicon Valley, yet the
    Digital Divide continues to plague the nation.
  • The pace at which Indian society is trying to
    absorb these technologies through its organs such
    as language has added one more divide to those
    already in existence - the "digital divide"
    resulting in the disparity in access to
    information and to the means of communication in
    21st Century India.

Digital Divide
  • Computer penetration in India is estimated to be
    7.5 per 1000 people but at the same time, the
    internet is able to reach only about one percent
    of the total population of the country.

Government Initiatives
  • The Technology Development for Indian Languages
    (TDIL) is the initiative of the Ministry of
    Communication and Information Technology. TDIL
    has been mandated to bridge the digital divide by
    developing IT tools in local languages in India.
  • Centre for Development of Advanced Computing
    (CDAC) is government of India run organization
    involved in research and development of
    computers, known of development of super

Role of TDIL and CDAC
  • Translation Support System
  • GyanNidhi
  • Dware Dware Gyan Sampada - Mobile Digital Library
  • Chitraksharika
  • Lekhika
  • On-Line Hindi Vishwakosh
  • On Line IT Terminology
  • Swarnakriti

Private Initiative
  • In addition, many private players including
    Indian and multinational giants like Microsoft,
    IBM, Infosys, Wipro, TCS, Reliance, Airtel,
    Vodafone etc. are developing software and
    applications in Indian languages.
  • Needless to say, a major search engine like
    Google has already started offering search
    possibilities in Bengali, Hindi, Marathi, Tamil
    and Telugu, and there are a series of other major
    players eyeing Indian localization markets.

CAT Tools
  • Machine Translation in India is relatively young.
  • The earliest efforts date from the late 80s and
    early 90s. Prominent among these are the projects
    at IIT Kanpur, University of Hyderabad, NCST
    Mumbai and CDAC Pune.
  • The Technology Development in Indian Languages
    (TDIL), an initiative of the Department of IT,
    the Ministry of Communications and Information
    Technology (Government of India), has been
    instrumental in funding these projects.
  • Since the mid and late 90s, a few more projects
    have been initiatedat IIT (Bombay), IIT
    (Hyderabad), AU-KBC Centre (Chennai) and the
    Jadavpur University (Kolkata).

CAT Tools
  • Anglabharat (and Anubharati)MT
  • Anusaaraka MT
  • MaTra HAMT
  • Mantra MT
  • UCSG-based English-Kannada MT
  • UNL-based MT between English, Hindi and Marathi
  • Tamil-Hindi Anusaaraka and English-Tamil MT
  • English-Hindi MAT for news sentences

CAT Tools Private Initiative
  • English-Hindi Statistical MT - IBM
  • BhashaIndia - Microsoft

Translation and localization market
  • World

Translation and localization market
  • India
  • The Nasscom-Deloitte study on Indian IT Industry
    Impacting the Economy and Society says the
    IT/ITES industry's contribution to the country's
    GDP has increased to a share of 5.2 percent in
    2007, as against 1.2 percent in 1998.
  • And with a growth of 27 per cent in 2007, in
    2008, the Indian ITES market is set to cross US
    25.43 billion.

Translation and Localization Market - India
  • Based on the reports of NASSCOM that India is
    sharing 5.2 of the ITES market, and according to
    the growth pattern depicted by Common Sense
    Advisory if we take India's share as 5 of the
    world market, currently Indian language market
    size may be taken at approx. value of 500
    millions which may be summed, in terms of
    activities, as follows

SWOT Analysis
  • Strenght
  • Presence of IT giants, IT service providers and
    the BPO boom create a high demand for Language
    Professionals. Agencies, Institutions /
    Universities / Diplomatic Missions, Corporate
    houses, Government bodies, BPOs, Publishing
    Houses, E-books, Software companies, etc. all use
    the services of Language Professionals in a big

SWOT Analysis
  • Weakness
  • Translators are not conversant with CAT tools
  • No stringent quality control processes
  • Use of CAT tools has been on the rise Like
  • wordfast, Across, etc. are costly
  • Cost effective alternatives can be
  • Heartsome, XLIFF editor

SWOT Analysis
  • Opportunities
  • Opportunities abound in India, one of the largest
    markets in the world, not only for Indian
    languages (Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil,
    Marathi, Urdu, Gujarati, etc.) but rather for all
    languages in combination with English as well.

SWOT Analysis
  • Threat
  • Indian Translators involved in foreign language
    translation activities face relatively more
    challenges than their counterparts involved in
    translating Indian languages.
  • Global competition is a major factor. This fairly
    unique situation of an Asian country working
    extensively with foreign languages makes the
    foreign language Indian translator vulnerable to
    hostility not only from the traditional
    opponents of outsourced work but, more
    disturbingly, from colleagues within the nation
    who feel that it is only their work which has

Role of Indian Translators Association
  • With newly formed National Translation Mission by
    Government of India, ITAINDIA shall play a major
    role, acting as a communicator between government
    and translation community of India.
  • Assist in joint ventures
  • Unite translators
  • Create awareness
  • Network with national and international bodies
    and forums
  • Actively participate in language and translation
    related activities at national level as well as
    international level
  • Fight for the cause of translators community of
    India as well as world in general

End note
  • The unique cultural diversity of the Language and
    Translation Industry of India thus provides rich
    prospects for mutually enriching collaborations
    across the globe.
  • Accustomed to economize as a philosophy of life,
    the Indian translation industry preserves age old
    humanistic Asian values in an age of cut throat
    competition, thus bringing a two-fold benefit in
    an era of soaring prices and plummeting human
  • Even with all these valiant endeavors, a lot
    still remains to be done by individuals and
    companies, as well as by the government, to
    promote this nascent industry and incorporate the
    required changes, to adapt and upgrade skills and
    to use new technologies
  • but the baseline is set, and I am sure the
    existing synergy will translate into great
    opportunities for those who look towards India as
    potential investment destination.

  • For comments write to
  • Ravi Kumar, President
  • Indian Translators Association
  • K-5/B, Lower Ground Floor, Kalkaji
  • New Delhi 110019, India
  • Tel 91-11-26291676 Telefax 91-11-41675530
  • E-mail Web