Faroe Islands launch live translation service

Prime Minister Aksel Vilhelmsson Johannesen on Faroe Islands Translate Image copyright Faroe Islands Translate
Image caption Prime Minister Aksel Vilhelmsson Johannesen is one of the service's talking heads

The Faroe Islands have started their own online translation service in a bid to have their native Germanic language, Faroese, featured on Google Translate.

The Faroe Islands Translate service has been set up by the Visit Faroes tourism organisation, which - instead of providing instant machine translation - passes your request onto a volunteer, who then provides a live or pre-recorded video translation.

Even Prime Minister and former footballer Aksel Vilhelmsson Johannesen is helping out, offering a welcome to visitors in Faroese.

The language, which derives from Old Norse, is spoken by some 66,000 people, approximately two thirds of whom reside on the Faroe Islands.

Services are available for English speakers and speakers of 13 other languages including Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Portuguese.

Sheep View success

Faroe Islands Translate Project Manager Levi Hanssen says that the service fills a gap left by Google Translate and preserves local language and culture.

"We're taking matters into our own hands and enlisting a whole host of local Faroese people to allow us to help those who want to learn a little Faroese. In doing so, we also build up a video database that visually and audibly logs the Faroese language, something that's never been done before," he says.

It's the second time that the Faroes have had a playful dig at Google over a perceived lack of services for its residents.

Frustrated that the archipelago had been overlooked by the US company's Street View mapping service, Visit Faroes set up Sheep View last year to create an ovine tour of the islands. Within weeks, Google sent vehicles to map the island "officially", the tourism organisation said.

Image copyright Visit Faroes
Image caption Sheep View eventually led to the Faroes being mapped by Google

Reporting by Alistair Coleman

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