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Machine Translation

What we’re doing

The Welsh language has now joined a growing list of languages to benefit from translation services provided by Microsoft Translator. Developed by the National Assembly for Wales in partnership with Microsoft, the system will consist of tools, services and applications which will provide support across the suite of Microsoft products and services, including Word and Outlook, along with Bing Translator applications for Windows, Windows Phone and online at

Desk instructions on the use of Microsoft Translator (344KB)

The video below shows the way that machine translation helps staff at the Assembly to communicate bilingually. It includes footage of the launch of the Welsh facility on Microsoft in February 2014, as well as interviews with Assembly staff members.


Why we’re doing this

The National Assembly for Wales is a bilingual institution. Our Official Languages Scheme (1.38MB) sets out our ambition to be recognised as a truly bilingual institution where Assembly Members, staff and the public can choose to work or communicate in either or both of our official languages and where the use of both languages is encouraged and facilitated. The introduction of Welsh in Microsoft Translator is a great step forward in bilingual working and should help facilitate the use of machine translation to allow more people to communicate bilingually.

We are also committed to spending money wisely and making best use of technology to help Assembly Members and staff to carry out their roles effectively. Our Information and Communications Technology Strategy says that we will make the best use of technology to work flexibly and in a way that makes us accessible to the people of Wales.


To achieve this, Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM, the Assembly Commissioner with responsibility for the Welsh language, and Assembly staff have been working with Microsoft to develop a Welsh language model for their Microsoft Translator and Bing Translator machine translation systems, which can be used within Microsoft Office. These will allow people all over the world to translate text into and from Welsh, simply by clicking the ‘Translate’ button on the ‘Review’ tab.


Quality and machine translation

To make sure that the translations are as accurate as possible, we’ve been working with a host of bilingual organisations to upload as much bilingual data as possible to our system. They have helped us to feed a large number of documents into the system, all of which will help to improve the quality of the translations suggested.

The quality of machine translation is not perfect and does not deliver the same level of quality achieved by human translation. However, the language system provides a means to achieve a level of understanding and to enable more people to communicate bilingually, as well as saving time and reducing costs for professional translators. The objective is not to replace the need for formal communication and documents to be translated professionally, but to provide another tool to extend bilingual communication where it might not otherwise have been possible.

Use of translation technology in the Assembly

24 November 2011 – The Assembly Commission decides to use a combination of machine translation and post editing to translate the Record of Plenary proceedings within five working days. The Commission also agrees to keep up to date with developments.

17 January 2012 – The first Record of Proceedings translated using machine translation and post editing is published.

Summer 2012 – Officials begin investigating the potential of machine translation for use within the Translation and Reporting Service.

3 October 2012 – The National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Bill is passed by the National Assembly for Wales.

12 November 2012 – The National Assembly for Wales (Official Languages) Act 2012 receives Royal Assent.

17 July 2013 – The Assembly Commission’s Official Languages Scheme is agreed by the Assembly in Plenary which includes a commitment to make the best use of technology to translate documents more quickly and efficiently and to explore the benefits of machine translation system..

21 November 2013 –the Assembly Commission agrees that officials should continue to work with Microsoft to develop its translation system with a view to this system being made available to the public in 2014.

21 February 2014 – Launch of Microsoft Translator for Welsh.



We are grateful to the following for contributing data to help train the system and improve the translations:

•BBC Cymru Wales

•Cardiff University

•Care Council for Wales


•Gweiadur by Gwerin

•Labour Party

•National Eisteddfod of Wales

•National Library of Wales

•Natural Resources Wales

•Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales


•Welsh Conservatives

•Welsh Government

•Welsh Language Commissioner

•Welsh Liberal Democrats


Get involved

Once the translation system is being used, users can work with Microsoft to keep developing and improving it so that people all over the world can use it with confidence.

If you, or your organisation, have data that you’d be willing to contribute to further improve the Welsh language model, please get in touch using the following e-mail address:


More information: Microsoft blog


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