Meta, Facebook’s parent company, says it has built an AI that can translate 200 world languages.

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The multinational tech company announced its NLLB-200, its open-source machine translation model, on Wednesday.

The company touts the model as the first to translate across 200 speech forms, including 55 African languages.

It said it is using modeling techniques of the project to extend translations on Facebook, Instagram, and Wikipedia.

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Meta said NLLB-200 is a part of its effort to develop high-quality machine translation for low-resource languages.

Mark Zuckerberg, Meta CEO, said the 200-language model has over 50 billion parameters trained using the Research Super Cluster, one of the world’s fastest AI supercomputers.

“They are challenging from a machine translation perspective. AI models require lots and lots of data to help them learn, and there’s not a lot of human-translated training data for these languages,” the company added.

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“We worked with professional translators for each of these languages to develop a reliable benchmark that can automatically assess translation quality for many low-resource languages.

“We also work with professional translators to do human evaluation too, meaning people who speak the languages natively evaluate what the AI produced.”

Balkissa Ide Siddo, Meta’s public policy director for Africa, listed Igbo among the languages in the project.

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“Africa is a continent with very high linguistic diversity, and language barriers exist day to day,” he said.

“We are pleased to announce that 55 African languages will be included in this machine translation research, making it a major breakthrough for our continent.

“Imagine visiting your favourite Facebook group, coming across a post in Igbo or Luganda, and being able to understand it in your own language with just a click of a button. That’s where we hope research like this leads us.

“Highly accurate translations in more languages could also help to spot harmful content and misinformation, protect election integrity, and curb instances of online sexual exploitation and human trafficking.”

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