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November 24, 1998


By CBR Staff Writer

The United Nations is reportedly poised to unveil a human language translation standard, called the universal networking language (UNL). The result of a project launched in 1996, the UNL will use enconverter and deconverter software, built to run on the internet. Anyone with net access should be able to enconvert text from a range of native languages into UNL, and then to deconvert from UNL to any other native language. The idea is to preserve cultural pluralism while encouraging rapid information flow around the world. The design of the system and its core applications are being undertaken at the UNL Centre of the Institute of Advanced Studies (IAS) at the United Nations University (UNU) in Tokyo. UNU officer in charge, Professor Tarcisio Della Senta, told Reuters: It is not for translating Shakespeare or poetry or even a philosophical text. Rather, UNL is intended for texts that follow a comparatively simple logical scheme, such as scientific papers or legal documents. The project is sticking fairly closely to its ten-year plan. From 1996 to 1998, the researchers planned to create the core system and the conversion modules for a dozen natural languages, including the six official languages of the UN. An experimental software system has already been established in collaboration with research institutes and R&D companies in Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Mongolia, Portugal, Russia and Spain. From 1999 to 2005, modules for the native languages of other member states will be developed and the system’s performance and quality will be improved.

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