The government of Nunavut in Canada is using Microsoft technologies to preserve indigenous languages. Translation tools and artificial intelligence are helping speakers of Inuktitut to communicate more effectively with others.
Microsoft has added text translation of Inuinnaqtun – a dialect of language spoken by fewer than 600 people in the Kitikmeot region of Nunavut and Unesco endangered language – and updated language models and text translation for Inuktitut.
Inuktitut is the primary dialect of the Inuktut language, spoken by approximately 40,000 people across Inuit Nunangat and used by 70 per cent of Nunavut’s residents. Following the launch of Inuktitut in Microsoft Translator in 2021, community members shared positive feedback and requested for further updates to “make Inuktitut even more accessible and support to help ensure the longevity of Inuinnaqtun,” said Kevin Peesker, president of Microsoft Canada.
The government of Nunavut worked with the local community to build and test the language models for Inuinnaqtun in Microsoft Translator. According to Peesker, the tool helps to increase the number of people who are learning and using Inuinnaqtun, and enables Nunavut residents to communicate more effectively, for example, with healthcare providers.
The partnership with Microsoft builds on long-term collaboration, having seen the government deploy Microsoft Teams and Windows 365 to its over 5,200 employees to facilitate virtual communication, skills training and more efficient daily operations.