Cork-based Translit offers free translation tech to help Ukrainian refugees

9 Mar 2022

Translit CEO Alex Chernenko. Image: Translit

Ukrainian-born Alex Chernenko spoke to SiliconRepublic.com about his company’s response to the Russian invasion and its AI research plans.

Cork-based translation service provider Translit is offering free tech and language services to Ukrainian refugees entering Ireland as they flee the Russian invasion.

Translit provides translation and interpreting services in more than 120 languages for businesses, government bodies and individuals. The company, which has offices in Cork and Limerick, allows people to find an interpreter from a database of more than 3,000 freelancers around the world. It also provides tech for real-time and remote interpreting.

Future Human

In response to the crisis in Ukraine, Translit CEO Alex Chernenko told SiliconRepublic.com that it has reached out to NGOs and government organisations to offer support.

“What we want to do now is work closely with government bodies, so we can support Ukrainian refugees and work directly with individuals who for some reason, cannot get help and support from the local authorities.

“I am originally from Ukraine myself and I understand that sometimes a person coming to a foreign country doesn’t know what to do, they need a place to go. So we would like to extend that help and say that, if you need help and you cannot get it locally, come to us, we will do it for you either for no cost at all, or just to pay the basic cost essentially.”

Born in the Ukrainian port city of Odessa, Chernenko moved to Ireland in 2003 and set up the company six years later. He said he understands the importance of accessing language services in a new country.

While working with government bodies that “already have processes built in” to help refugees, Translit is also offering services such as not-for-profit document translation.

‘I understand that sometimes a person coming to a foreign country doesn’t know what to do, they need a place to go’
– ALEX CHERNENKO

Last week, Minister for State Anne Rabbitte, TD, said Ireland may be expected to take in more than 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, with significant numbers expected within weeks.

“I have friends and family in Ukraine who are directly affected by this and I am hearing their awful stories every day,” Chernenko said. “A woman who works with me, she has bombs exploding next to her and seven times a day she leaves her work desk and goes down to the bunker.

“Ukraine is my home country and now I see cities there being destroyed, people who have lived there are having to flee and leave their homes because they don’t feel safe. I can’t understand it but my team and I will do whatever we can to help.”

Translit set up its own remote interpreting service last year to help businesses continue their work during the Covid-19 pandemic. Amid the crisis in Ukraine, Chernenko said this remote technology will be made available to various government bodies and organisations.

Global sectors such as tech and gaming have been reacting to the conflict in recent weeks and placing restrictions on Russia.

Chernenko said he has friends in Russia and knows there are many people there who do not support the invasion of Ukraine. He has also been “frustrated” seeing people spread hate and violence toward individuals just because they’re from a particular country.

“Hating somebody on the fact that they speak a certain language, or they have certain different colour of skin, or they were born in another country, just because they don’t like that country, it’s not a way forward, we’re going to go backwards,” he added.

“Our motto is we’re promoting understanding, irrespective of where the person was born or what language they speak, and that’s a good way to be doing things.”

Plans for the future

Chernenko said Translit’s goal is to become a leader in interpreting and translation services. It currently works with Government bodies such as the Department of Finance and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

During the pandemic, it set up Translit Pro, a learning platform for people “at all stages of their career” who wish to train to become interpreters. The company also joined a tender process with the UN this week to be selected as an official provider for interpreting services.

“We really want to help. It’s not just about the money, it’s also about helping people and helping countries to find decent agreement between each other,” Chernenko said.

As well as providing translation services, Translit is also a software company with proprietary technology that is compatible with other products like Skype and Zoom.

“We want to grow as an interpreting company, but in terms of new areas, we are currently playing with artificial intelligence,” Chernenko added. “On the next, let’s say, big contract or investment round, we’re planning to significantly invest into research and development.

“Everything is going into artificial space and interpreting services is something that’s been a little bit lagging behind.”

Chernenko said machine interpreting is an “emergent technology” at the moment and is currently unsuitable for use at typical conferences that have technical information.

“Once it hits 90pc quality, that would be a time where more and more organisations will start to adopt it. So we’re going to see a streaming service just using machine interpretation. And people can understand what’s being said, and they don’t need live interpreters.”

While certain areas such as government meetings or court discussion may still require human interpreters in the future, Chernenko sees more “trivial” examples such as web presentations or conferences using machine interpretation – “and that’s why we want to tap into this”.

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic

editorial@siliconrepublic.com