Microsoft’s ELLORA is Giving New Life to Indian Languages

Microsoft’s ELLORA is the language technology that Indian languages need

Microsoft’s ELLORA (Enabling Low Resource Languages) is a project that aims to bring ‘rare’ Indian languages online through the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). The project was started in 2015.

What is ELLORA about?

Just as Hindi, English, or any other language has an online presence- in terms of being able to type the script of the language or enable the voice command of the same, ELLORA wants to make that possible for more local and rare Indian languages. The team behind the project is working hard to build digital resources of the languages. This will allow them to preserve the language and give the speakers of those languages a chance to become a part of the online world.

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Even though India might see a huge number of internet users, there is a massive difference between the urban and rural populations that have access to the digital world. Integration of these languages into mainstream digital media will help represent the ignored population and make them a part of the digital growth of India.

Which languages are they targeting?

At present, Microsoft Research (MSR) is working with only three languages – Gondi, Mundari, and Idu Mishmi. Gondi is a Dravidian language that about three million people speak. It is most widely spoken in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Telangana.

Gondi is also the language where the company has done the maximum of its work. It has been distinguished as a vulnerable language in UNSECO 2009 report.

Mundari is spoken in the Eastern areas of the Jharkhand, Odisha, and West Bengal belts. The Mundas community is recognized as a central Indian tribe. It is one of the languages that is on the verge of extinction. In 2018, the Odisha government also proposed that the language be included in the Eighth Schedule of the Constitution.

The team is working in partnership with IIT-Kharagpur and GIZ, the German Development Fund, to help with the Mundari language. They are working to create educational material for children in this language, as very few are aware of it. Idu Mishmi is a small language spoken in the Dibang Valley in Arunachal Pradesh. The 2002 census puts the native speakers of this language as just 11,000 people.

The Idu Mishmi is a sub- tribe of the Mishmi group. Idu Mishmi language is classified as Definitely Endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger.

This project is ambitious as well as a ray of hope for the dying India languages. Bringing these languages into the digital world will help preserve their culture and growth.

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Harshita Bajaj

Harshita has a background in Psychology and Criminology and is currently pursuing her PhD in Criminology. She can be found reading crime thrillers (or any other book for that matter) or binge-watching shows on Netflix when she is not in hibernation.
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