Saturday March 17, 2018
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Yes, Indians can speak English


Indians living abroad, especially in English-speaking countries, are quite often asked a question that takes us by surprise. I am sure that many Indians have been asked this question time and again and no, this has nothing to do with their line of work or anything else.

The question, that may come across as innocent, is actually quite appalling. I have met at least five persons who have asked me about the fluency of my spoken English. It may come as a surprise when you are asked the very first time but when asked, again and again, it becomes a little irritating.

Let me make  this clear on behalf of all the Indians who live abroad. Yes, we can speak English. There is a simple reason behind this–we come English medium schools. Yes, we have lots and lots of those back in India. We not only have English as a subject but it is also the language used for communication in school and college and throughout our years of education. It may come as a surprise to you but we also use English at the workplace. Our fluency may vary but most of us do know the language. Surprising as it may seem to many, we can read, write and speak English fluently.

I was first bombarded with this question around three years ago when my husband and I went mattress shopping. The saleswoman, who was in her late forties, was quite amiable and did her job well. Then she asked us for how long we had been living in the United States. I told her it had just been a couple of months (We had just relocated back then). She looked surprised and I think she did try to control herself but failed and said, “Your English is perfect. Where did you learn to speak the language?” It took me a few minutes to recover from the question but my husband, who travels a lot and is probably used to this line of questioning, simply said, we come from English-medium schools. The poor woman looked shocked. We did not buy the mattress from that store, not because of the stupid question but because it was too expensive.

Since it was the first time I was asked that question I did not know how to react. I have been asked the same question on many occasions and sometimes with a look of disgust, surprise, shock and many similar expressions but now I do not even bother to explain the Indian education system to them. I simply reply with a Yes and move on.

I can still understand if the question is asked by some middle-aged person. But someone who is young shouldn’t be so ignorant. Don’t get me wrong. I can completely understand that you are intrigued and think that people from India do not speak English and why shouldn’t you? After all, it is not our national language. However, the good part is that the India was ruled by the Britishers for the 100 years and whatever bad they did, they did manage to leave behind a few good things, the adaption of English language in our education system and it is being followed till date and becoming more and more advanced.

So, the crux is most of us who do get a job in English speaking countries or are transferred there, it is because we know the language. Why the hell would we be sent there otherwise? Think about it. Am I making sense to you now? I am sure I am., writer is an Indian blogger living in the US

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Microsoft AI translates Chinese to English like humans

The researchers taught the system to repeat the process of translating the same sentence over and over

Microsoft's new AI is an expert translator. Wikimedia Commons
Microsoft's new AI is an expert translator. Wikimedia Commons
  • Microsoft creates a new kind of AI
  • This can translate Chinese to English just like humans
  • The translator makes little mistakes

A team of Microsoft researchers, including one of Indian-origin, has created an Artificial Intelligence (AI)-powered machine system that can translate sentences of news articles from Chinese to English with the same quality and accuracy as humans.

Researchers from the company’s Asia and US labs said their system achieved human parity on a commonly-used test set of news stories — called “newstest2017” — that was released at a conference recently, a blog post said late on Wednesday.

Microsoft acquired the start-up PlayFab. Pixabay
This Ai can expertly translate Chinese into English. Pixabay

According to Arul Menezes, an IIT-Bombay alumni and Partner Research Manager of Microsoft’s machine translation team, the team set out to prove that its systems could perform about as well as a person when it used a language pair — like Chinese to English — for which there is a lot of data.

“Given the best-case situation as far as data and availability of resources goes, we wanted to find out if we could actually match the performance of a professional human translator,” said Menezes.

To ensure the results were both accurate and at par with what people would have done, the team hired external bilingual human evaluators who compared Microsoft’s results to two independently produced human reference translations.

“Hitting human parity in a machine translation task is a dream that all of us have had. We just did not realise we would be able to hit it so soon,” said Xuedong Huang, Technical Fellow in charge of Microsoft’s speech, natural language and machine translation efforts.

Also Read: Microsoft Teams to have Cortana integration, other features

To reach the human parity milestone on this dataset, three research teams in Microsoft’s Beijing and Redmond, Washington, research labs worked together to make the system more accurate.

“Much of our research is really inspired by how we humans do things,” said Tie-Yan Liu, Principal Research Manager with Microsoft Research Asia in Beijing.

The team used dual-learning method. Every time they sent a sentence through the system to be translated from Chinese to English, the research team also translated it back from English to Chinese.

Microsoft Kaizala
The accuracy rate is high too. Wikimedia

That’s similar to what people might do to make sure that their automated translations were accurate, and it allowed the system to refine and learn from its own mistakes. Dual learning, which was developed by the Microsoft research team, can also be used to improve results in other AI tasks.

Another method, called deliberation networks, is similar to how people edit and revise their own writing by going through it again and again. The researchers taught the system to repeat the process of translating the same sentence over and over, gradually refining and improving the response, Microsoft said. IANS