AI translation tools support India’s indigenous language policy

While English has been the main language of instruction in higher education in India, many students from non-English speaking backgrounds struggle to understand study materials, which impedes their learning experience and affects academic performance.

Earlier this year India’s higher education regulator, the University Grants Commission (UGC), asked universities to allow students to write exams in local languages even if the course is taught in English.

Given that the government now encourages education in local languages, the demand for translation of English books in Indic languages is also gaining momentum. The UGC stressed the need to strengthen and “promote such initiatives as writing textbooks in the mother tongue/local languages and encouraging their use in teaching, including translating standard books from other languages”.

With the emergence of effective generative AI tools such as ChatGPT, the UGC issued new guidelines in July for translation of higher education textbooks using artificial intelligence tools. The guidelines were issued to ensure consistency and maintain the quality of translated textbooks at both national and regional levels. They were also timely, and recognised the role such tools can play.

In a country as diverse as India there are 22 official languages and 270 mother tongues, according to the National Census. The use of AI tools, particularly generative AI writing tools such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, with the ability to translate and write human-like text, could become a game-changer for students, teachers and other stakeholders, educators said.

Experts say AI-assisted translation has advantages not just for students but also for higher education institutions as it is cost-effective for institutions wishing to promote multilingual education.

Projects for AI translation of study materials

Translating study materials into multiple languages usually involves a lot of time, effort and resources, but AI translation can simplify the process significantly.

Many top engineering colleges in India are undertaking generative AI research projects to figure out how the technology can be used in creating tools in Indian languages, similar to Open AI’s ChatGPT.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, under the guidance of Professor Ganesh Ramakrishnan of the department of computer science and engineering, launched Project Udaan, which enables translation from English to all Indian languages.

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