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POLENG: Polish-English Machine Translation

Solution Overview

Industry & Country
Translation Tools & Services, Poland

Related Links

? POLENG: Technical Information

? The POLENG Team

? AIB Group

? Bank Zachodni WBK

? KBN: The State Committee for Scientific Research

Related HLT Central Content

? Feature: The State of Machine Translation in Europe and Future Prospects

? Success Story: TranSmart Machine Translation at Rautaruukki

? Success Story: Machine Translation at Lingtech


The process of joining the European Union puts many new requirements on Polish society. One of them is "linguistic integration". Although the command of foreign languages in Poland has drastically improved, the change can be observed mostly among young people. It is obvious that joining the business and economic structures of the European Union means translations of thousands of already produced documents as well as coping with the current document flow.

In this context, serious efforts to solve this problem are especially welcome. One such effort is POLENG, which started in 1996 when Krzysztof Jassem was about to defend his PhD thesis. Already having the idea of developing an automatic translation system in mind, he asked his best students to participate in this challenge. With his closest collaborators, he successfully applied for grants through the Polish Phonetic Association. In this way, he obtained some funds to pay the members of the team.

In 1998, Krzysztof Jassem successfully applied for a grant to further develop POLENG from the KBN (State Committee for the Scientific Research, a government agency that supports researchers in Poland), which resulted in a two-year project that finished in 2000.

Besides the core team, more than ten specialists contributed to the project at different stages, working on theoretical and practical programming and linguistic tasks. The interest raised by the project among linguists and computer scientists in Poland shows the importance of the problems studied and solved by the team.

Towards A Commercial Product
At the same time as the project team were working on various aspects of POLENG, a few commercial translation systems were launched on the market. Krzysztof Jassem reckoned that the team needed one year to reach the market stage, and was fully aware of the amount of work to be done, as well as POLENG's advantages relative to similar current systems.

While the system still needs a larger dictionary, it uses relatively new translation methods. It employs the only Polish parser that works with "real" texts. Another important task on the to-do list is to improve the stability of the program. Krzysztof Jassem is seriously considering an important extension to the existing system: a complementary module for the English--Polish language pair. However, that would mean considerable changes to the translation engine or even having to develop a new one.

Currently POLENG interoperates with the components of MS Office as well as with Lotus Notes. It can be also installed as a plug-in for Internet Explorer version 6.0. The dictionary covers banking and business terminology, as well as general vocabulary. The system has considerable commercial applications potential, with potential users ranging from Internet portals, banks and business corporations to small-to-medium enterprises and individuals.

First Applications
AIB Group, Ireland's leading banking and financial services organisation, has a majority shareholding in Bank Zachodni WBK, a bank formed from the merger of Wielkopolski Bank Kredytowy based in Poznan and Wroclaw-based Bank Zachodni. AIB, whose investment in Poland gives it access to one of Central Europe's largest economies, saw the the advantages of co-operating with POLENG, and offered its support to the team.

AIB has found that machine translation can be extremely useful in the case of standard, technical texts flowing between Polish and Irish sites. While human translators still have to track and proofread machine translation output, using the system means quicker, more efficient document exchange. While more potential partners have expressed their interest, and even though concrete partnerships have yet to be finalised, Krzysztof Jassem is optimistic about marketing issues and further exploitation.

The POLENG story shows that it is possible for a small group of young researchers to carry out a large project that is both aligned with their personal interests, and that has considerable commercial exploitation potential. Although the achievements of the team can be already considered as very successful on a local, Polish scale, Krzysztof Jassem hopes that the real success will come when the commercial version of the system is ready. The Polish market for language technologies is small and developing relatively slowly. Nevertheless, in a country of 40 million people, and approaching entry to the European Union, one can optimistically think about the future.

Many thanks to Dr. Krzysztof Jassem for his kind help with this text.

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