Engkoo is Microsoft’s linguistic equivalent of ‘teach a man to fish’ when it comes down to enabling Chinese users to learn English.Released by Bing in China, the new project delivers language assistance search technology which provides Chinese speakers with much more than a dictionary.
Instead, users can leverage the search engine linguistics capabilities of Engkoo to unravel the mysteries of the English language, including slang and idioms.
Engkoo provides search and translation capabilities, but also diverse results to queries, from text to images and to video. Of course, the focus here is to offer context, rather than simple translation.
At the same time, the software giant has taken it one step further and included text-to-speech functionality. Moreover, Engkoo is perfectly capable to understand the phonetic version of words, and still allow users to perform accurate searches.
“According to statistics, about 15 new words and uses for words appear in the English language every day,” noted Ming Zhou, senior researcher and research manager of the Natural Language Processing Group at Microsoft Research in Beijing.
“Any manual effort will have a hard time keeping up. And translation quality has always been a big issue, so you can imagine the enormous translation potential of using a variety of data from the Web,” he added.
According to Microsoft, taking into consideration the time it took to develop the technology behind Engkoo, the project has been over a decade in the making.
The work was focused into enabling Engkoo to perform data mining by searching the Internet on its own, and allowing itself to evolve.
The project is capable of harvesting information on new or changing words, idioms and colloquialisms both in Chinese and English, and subsequently build bridges between the two languages.
“The motivation is really this: There are more than 250 million people in China trying to learn English, and the rest of the world is trying to learn Chinese,” revealed Frank Soong, Research Manager, Microsoft Speech Group.
“The momentum of financial and economic development in China cannot be underestimated, and people familiar with both Chinese and English do have advantages in business markets. Engkoo serves this kind of need in both directions, and the technology can be applied to other language pairings as well,” he added.