In the Globally Integrated Enterprise, linguistically diverse teams can either build incredible solutions...

or construct a tower of babble. For example, when you start your workday at IBM, you step into the vast, global network of 400,000 colleagues who connect using everything from Lotus Notes and Sametime Connect to BlueTwit and BlogCentral. You'll work with people in Central America, Eastern Europe, North Africa and Southeast Asia - people who speak and write different languages like Spanish, German, Russian, Arabic, Korean, etc. For the majority of us, this could be overwhelming and easily create a sense of being "lost in translation". Happily, with the n.Fluent Translation project we're now nearing the day when you'll be able to communicate, collaborate, and innovate directly with world-wide colleagues, regardless of language differences.

Hosted as an internal IBM service since August 2008, n.Fluent offers a secure real-time translation tool that translates text in web pages, electronic documents, Sametime instant message chats, and provides a BlackBerry mobile translation application. It can convert English to and from Arabic, simplified and traditional Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

A bit of history

This IBM Research project caught the spotlight during InnovationJam 2006 - where it was rated one of the top ten most promising ideas to come from IBM. The Integration & Values Team (I&VT) picked up on this important issue-breaking down language barriers-while working on understanding the challenges we face as global IBMers.

Crowdsourcing - the collective power of bilingual IBMers

Translation is based on alogrithms developed from large amounts of parallel sentences in language pairs like English and Spanish, French and English, etc. However, the majority of n.Fluent's content for developing translation models is in English, requiring that it be translated to our supported languages. As a result, one key cornerstone of the n.Fluent project is its Crowdsourcing strategy-which enables us to effectively tap into the collective power of bilingual IBMers for translating sentences or correcting machine translated sentences-for improving translation accuracy and quality.

Through a series of Crowdsourcing strategies and events, n.Fuent has successfully engaged and nurtured a vibrant and active world-wide pool of volunteer translators who are dedicated to innovation that truly matters! One year after it was launched internally, around 3,000 crowdsourcing volunteers have collectively contributed about 36Million words (crowdsourcing from instant message chats and crowdsourcing translations), and there have been over 3,700 downloads of instant messaging and Mobile Plug-in multilingual translation clients. This community continues to grow with a steady stream of internal pilots and deployments, as n.Fluent implements the process of external access/offering.

Our charter and research goals

All online translation tools, including Google's or anyone else's, collect the text that is given to them for translation to improve their models. However, in some instances, you may unintentionally be sharing your Company's Confidential information. Therefore, n.Fluent Translation is a language translation system unlike any other. We are passionate about our goals which include:

  • Creating a secure, enterprise-strength, scalable, and unparalleled machine language translation service for IBM, our partners, clients, and the world, based on the contributions from the linguistic talent of 400,000 worldwide IBMers via crowdsourcing.
  • And, consequently, mitigating the language barrier by helping build a smarter workplace for ourselves, partners, clients, and the world.

Team members

A cross-enterprise (world-wide) team from IBM Research, GBS, CIO and Marketing, Communications and Citizenship has been working on building the system and finalizing the business case.

Contact Us

Please contact tmcbride@us.ibm.com if you would like to learn about using n.Fluent.