From the Editor & Founder

We have heard your feedback, you want to read our articles in Urdu. This is the number one request from our users. We’ve immediately acted, hired a team of translators and are targeting end-of-April to have the entire site translated in Urdu, and our users will be able to select the language they desire to navigate our platform.

Language and Freedom

The origin of language in the course of historical evolution is synchronous with the progression of human thought. Ideas can come into the mind only with the aid of words. Possession of language is a distinctive quality of intelligence that we, humans, exhibit. Freedom of thought requires the development of Urdu language, which will accelerate the grand awakening of our national consciousness. Language is a process of free creation, its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Language is the mirror of the mind, and citizens of Pakistan will strive to develop Urdu for the elevation of our collective imagination.    

Role of the English language in Pakistan

The working language in Pakistan is English. Our constitution, laws, business communication, emails, traffic signs and official documentation are in English. The development of Urdu will be concurrent to the progression of English, we will continue to teach and democratize English to more people in Pakistan. 

 

All of Mr. Jinnah’s speeches are in English, this means that accessing our national history and understanding the vision of Pakistan requires the ability to read and understand English. The only book recommended by Mr. Jinnah to the people of Pakistan, On Compromise” by John Morley, is in English. 

A false national spirit is to consider English-speaking citizens any less Pakistani or Urdu-speaking citizens any less intelligent. Establishing Urdu as a lingua-franca is key for nation-building, promoting and developing English is essential for our self-actualization. Bilingualism is the linguistic destiny of Pakistan.

Lee Kuan Yew, Founding Father and Prime Minister of Sinagpore (1959 to 1990), responsible for transforming Singapore from Third-world country to a First-world nation in a single-generation. 

Mr. Jinnah was a westernized Indian, tutored at Lincoln’s Inn, tailored at Savile Row, in his youth a Shakespearean actor, a constitutionalist barrister in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, married to a Parsi woman. More at home in English than his native Gujrati, Jinnah spoke little Urdu, knew neither Persian nor Arabic. Unlike Barrister Gandhi with whom Jinnah shared similarities of language, class, and education, and who donned the homespun dhoti, Jinnah stuck to his western ways and pin-stripe suits. He bowed but rarely to populist symbols, appearing only occasionally at political rallies, and shunning the display of emotion in public. Reasoned arguments and cold logic were the hallmark of Jinnah’s discourse. He spoke at political rallies as though he were addressing a courtroom, or a conference of lawyers. This is not the populist style anywhere, least of all in South Asia. Yet, in less than a decade of his return from London in 1935, he had eclipsed his political foes no less than colleagues in the Muslim League, and successfully established himself and the League as the sole spokesman of India’s Muslims.

Language and Artificial Intelligence

For millennia, humanity has been challenged by the inability of individuals to communicate clearly across cultural and linguistic divides. Mutual miscomprehension, and the inaccessibility of information in one language to a speaker of another, has caused misunderstanding, impeded trade and fomented war. AI is poised to make powerful translation capabilities available to wide audiences, potentially allowing more people to communicate more easily with one another. Applying deep neural networks has significantly advanced language translation. Effective translation requires understanding sequential dependencies, likelihood that a word will appear in a certain position in a sentence given the words that came before it. To capture these sequential dependencies, researchers devised networks that use as inputs not only still-to-be-translated text but also text that has already been translated. That way, the AI can identify the next word based on sequential dependencies in the input language and in the language the text is being translated to. The most powerful of these networks are transformers, which do not need to process language from left to right. Google’s BERT* is a bidirectional transformer designed to improve searching. This is key as the Urdu script is right to left vs. English which is left to right. 

 

Language translation researchers employed “parallel corpora”, a technique in which specific correspondence between inputs and outputs (for example, meaning between two texts in two or more languages is not needed for AI training. In conventional approaches, developers trained AI using texts and their preexisting translations – after all, they had the requisite level of correspondence between one language and another. Yet this approach greatly limited the amount of training data as well as the types of texts available: although government texts and bestselling books are frequently translated, periodicals, social media, websites, and other informational writings generally are not.
 

Rather than restricting AIs to training on carefully translated texts, researchers simply supplied articles and other texts in various languages covering a single topic, declining to bother with detailed translations between them. This process, training AIs on roughly matching – but untranslated – bodies of text, is the parallel corpora technique. It is akin to stepping from an introductory language class into a total immersion program. 

 

Jinnah’s Pakistan, as a platform, is a beneficiary of these developments in AI and we have been actively deploying translations from google translate across the globe via digital channels. 

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+1MM users reached for the above translation 

As we leverage our platform to conduct more imaginative international diplomacy, this capability will become more useful to reach users across Asia, North & South America, Europe, Africa and Oceania. While the advancements in AI language translation have rapidly progressed, it definitely requires human supervision and monitoring to ensure accuracy. The tools we have at our disposal can auto-translate the entire site in Urdu or any other language by leveraging Google translate API.  

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Jinnah's Pakistan homepage auto-translated in Urdu via Google translate

The auto-translate is a good starting point as it has managed to place the right words together. For example, "Building national character" is translated into "Ammarat quami kardar" but it has limitations around the grammatical tense of the language to convey the true meaning. 

 

* source: The Age of AI and Our Human Future (Henry A. Kissinger x Eric Schimdt x Daniel Huttenlocher

Your help

For this reason, we have hired human translators who have been actively translating the entire site in Urdu for the past ~5months. While we’ve been hard at work, we know to reach true accuracy we need your help. Once we go-live, we’ll provide you tools to provide us feedback on improving our translations and from your feedback we’ll be constantly improving, iterating and getting 1% better each day in our linguistic capabilities. We want to enable every citizen to operate as language scientists and producer of words.

Creation of new words

The eclipse of colonial administration stunted the growth of language and there's exciting work to be done to create new words in Urdu that take root in our national psyche. Pakistan is, perhaps, the most resilient nation on earth – but what is the equivalent word for resilient in Urdu?

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The Google translated word “لچکدار / Lachakdar” means “elastic”. Traditional Urdu dictionaries also don't provide an exact translation for the word resilient. We will be creating new words and expanding our vocabulary to stimulate Pakistani minds and impregnate national imagination with progressive, empowering and liberating ideas. In terms of technical innovation, we will continue to absorb technical English words in Urdu. The creation of language and new words will be fueled by human endeavor, effort and imagination.  

Software and Urdu

Computing treats non-Latin languages as second-class citizens. Despite efforts, many languages like Urdu remain disproportionately underrepresented on the Internet, in electronic communication, publishing, and software design. The history of Urdu computing in particular is a story of repeatedly compromising linguistic tradition to fit available technology.

The result of this history is an inescapable belief in Pakistan today that English is the language of computing – implying that Urdu will never be sufficient for computing. Of course the reality is that computing is not sufficient for Urdu.

Matnsāz is an initiative to build consumer and developer tools for the Urdu language. Our Pakistani friends and talent from Amazon, have embarked on a brilliant initiative to build a new keyboard in Urdu that makes sense. Read more here.

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Development of Roman Urdu 

Urdu in Latin script is already in usage in everyday text/whatsapp messages and widely adopted by our advertisers and marketers from top global brands that are loved by all.

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We will create an official Latin script of the Urdu language as a supplement to the Persian script. There’s an interesting passage from Turkish history we ought to reflect upon: 

 

“Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, from the palace of the Sultan, would introduce a drastic reform, which he had long projected. He would change the Arabic characters of Turkish into Latin, and so he would revolutionize all thought in Turkey. Not 10 percent of the nation could read. The complicated Arabic script had made it so difficult that it had become the monopoly of the priests and a few intellectuals. Mustafa Kemal saw a great vision. With one sweep of his arm he would destroy all this. He would send the whole of his people back to school, educated with uneducated, priests with porters; they should all learn to read and write. He would open wide for them the great gate of knowledge, and he would lead his people through to success. He studied diligently the alphabets of Western languages. At a conference at Baku in 1924 the Soviet republics had adopted the Latin script for all Tartars throughout Central Asia. Mustafa Kemal learnt their system. He called the language professors to him and together they worked out an alphabet in Latin characters to suit the needs of Turkey. For many hours each day Mustafa Kemal practiced until he had become proficient. He invited the entire nation and gave his audience a brief explanation why he had invited them all there. He described the difficulties and disadvantages of the Arabic script, and the advantages of Latin. Then on the black-board he traced the pot-hooks, the strokes and dots of the new alphabet and showed its use. All Constantinople set to work to learn the new script. Mustafa Kemal sat out on a tour round the country with his black-board and box of chalks, going from town to town, stopping in the villages on the way, calling the townsmen, and the yokels to him, giving lessons in the open marketplaces, making men who had never written anything before write their own names. The whole country, as well as Constantinople, responded. The idea caught the fancy of the nation: here was the key to golden success, to wealth and prosperity. All work became subordinate to learning the new script. With a whoop of excitement the country went back to school. ”

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In Pakistan’s case, Roman Urdu is already in-use and now, we will officially build it and actively promote it in our education system.

Religion and Language

Madrassas in Pakistan primarily teach students to recite the Quran in Arabic, a language they do not understand. Ignorance entails disease and poverty, while knowledge provides a gateway not only to health and affluence but also to national greatness based on equality, liberty, freedom and justice. Propaganda from within and without has made it far too easy for bad actors to enrage and rouse ignorant Muslims, erroneous concepts like the promise of 72 virgins and self-sacrifice have been introduced that have no basis in the Quran and are certainly not part of the Islamic culture. 

 

We will build a digital Quran in Urdu and English and infuse modern concepts as supplemental interpretation necessarily required to better understand the concepts outlined in the Quran. For example, when the Quran states “In the creation of the heavens and the earth, in the rotation of the day and night, are sure signs for people possessed of minds” – the pupils in the madrassas ought to be taught Kepler’s laws of planetary motion to fully comprehend the subject matter. This is the way to preserve and develop the Islamic culture and spirit. Public instruction is the most productive and important duty of citizens and we must strive for proliferating scientific ideas among our people. 

Development of Urdu Font

Readability of Urdu can improve, and we plan to evolve the font and its aesthetic presentation. Oftentimes words are jumbled on top of each other, making the language difficult to comprehend. 

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Print headline format in mainstream Jang news, 2022

We will partner with artists to develop, modernize and simplify the Urdu font. 

Sarmad Hashmi is an Urdu enthusiast and art director, please check out his work here 

Additional updates 

We’ve been working with creative designers from San Francisco and are finalizing the launch of our first book that’ll be available to download for free online and it will also be hitting book stores in Lahore. As we translate the entire site in Urdu, you will see us on local and national TV channels in Pakistan. Exciting times, onward and upward! 

Yours faithfully, 

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Ali Amin

Editor in Chief & Founder