A couple of Irish-related tech stories, one good and one bad (or at least highly suspect). Firstly from the Irish Times:
“Users of Google’s email client, Gmail, can now use the service in Irish following an extensive translation project undertaken by localisation teams and volunteer translators across the world.
Familiar Gmail terms such as Inbox, Starred and Sent Mail will appear as Bosca Isteach, Le Réiltín and Seolta once a small change is made to the user settings.
Comedian and presenter Hector Ó hEochagáin showed students from Pobalscoil Ghaoth Dobhair, Coláiste Íosagáin, Gaelcholáiste an Phiarsaigh and Mount Temple how to switch their Gmail settings to Gaeilge at an event at The Foundry, Google’s innovation centre in Dublin on Thursday.
The project came about after Professor Kevin Scannell of the University of St Louis, Missouri, contacted Google with the idea of translating the email client currently used by over 425 million users across the world.
Over 60,000 terms and messages were translated into Irish by a team of eight translators bringing to 72 the number of supported languages in Gmail.
Google staff based in Dublin, Zurich and at the company’s Mountain View base in California spent the last two months testing the newly localised version before going live with Gmail as Gaeilge.
Laura Brassil, who works with the localisation team in Dublin, said she hoped the tool would be used by people regardless of their knowledge of Irish.
Not only did the project make Gmail available in Irish but it also played its part in updating a database of languages used by other companies to inform their own software applications.
The Common Locale Data Repository (CLDR) is a collaborative database used to adapt software to the conventions of different languages by software giants including Apple, IBM and Microsoft as well as Google.
“Google updated the Irish data in CLDR which will improve Irish across the internet. English is very dominant but as more languages are coming online it is getting easier to use the Internet in different languages,” Ms Brassil said.
“I have great hope for it myself. I used to have very good Irish but I haven’t spoken it much since school so this has brought Irish back to me ‘tá sé ag teacht ar ais chugam,’ she added.
Several translators who worked on the project including Cormac Breathnach, Ciarán Ó Bréartún, Micheál Ó Meachair and Eoin Ó Murchú were present along with several members of the Google team.
John Lunney, Gmail engineer and member of a group of Irish speakers at Google said: “The idea is the most important thing. It is very good for people who are fluent but it especially good for those who do not have fluent Irish but who want to get back in touch with it again.”
In contrast the Irish Independent presents an unapologetically negative-spin on the Irish language with the bizarre claim that:
“One third of parents believe coding skills are more important than Irish, according to the results of a survey from UPC.
The results also showed that one in five believed it to be ‘more important’ than maths while they listed coding skills as being on a level par with mainstream subjects such as business, geography, music, history, art, Irish, science, languages, maths and English.
Today Microsoft is hosting an Hour of Code event in Government buildings which is being hosted by Deputy Eoghan Murphy – the event, run by Code.org, will be open to everyone working in Government buildings.”
All of which is worryingly vague. A quick internet research reveals that the original survey from UPC Ireland was released way back in early October as part of a PR campaign to promote its CoderDojo partnership, via Breaking News:
“In the research, carried out among 1,000 people (adults) by Amarach Research, two-thirds of respondents said that learning computer code is equally as important as learning mainstream subjects including Business, Geography, Music, History, Art, Irish, Science, Languages, Maths and English.”
So perhaps that Irish Independent newspaper headline should have read:
“One third of parents believe coding skills are more important than Business, Geography, Music, History, Art, Irish, Science, Languages, Maths and English, according to the results of a survey from UPC.”
So to Concubhar Ó Liatháin writing on Slugger O’Toole on the ongoing struggle by Irish-speaking citizens in the north-east of Ireland to attain equal rights with their English-speaking contemporaries:
“I was up in Stormont yesterday – Cnoc an Anfa is the Irish for Stormont – and it certainly lived up to its name. It was bitterly cold, so cold I could feel my fingers begin to detach themselves from my body as I clutched my ‘Acht Gaeilge’ placard at the bottom of the steps of that grandiose building.
There were around a hundred of us participating in an anti-racism, pro-diversity demonstration, called to demand an Irish Language Act to protect the north’s Irish speakers…”
Perhaps we need a similar rally outside Independent House?