Simplish: An online English Language Simplifying Tool project video thumbnail
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£312 pledged of £175,000 goal
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By Marcelo Funes-Gallanzi
£312 pledged of £175,000 goal
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About

Many people already speak a little English, enough to get by on trips, sing along to music and may be get the general gist of what is being said in movies but often this is not enough to understand technical, legal or more complicated material they need at work, for which a large vocabulary maybe needed!

Now, imagine a language simple enough to be learnt quickly by anybody. Imagine a language elaborate enough to convey any idea and concept. Imagine a universal language that everybody in the world could speak to communicate easily. This language exists. It is called Basic English. Combine it with an efficient tool to convert any English language text into Basic English and you obtain the perfect coupling for successful across-continents communications. This is when Simplish comes in.

The goal

At the Goodwill Company, we want to ease the understanding between people. We believe that the world deserves a good tool to enable communication without misinterpretation. Our goal is to allow anybody to communicate together without effort and avoid the lost in translation issue. We think that Basic English is the common denominator between people, since English is the international language and Basic English can be learnt in one month by anybody. Then you just have to convert your English text into Basic English and the non-native English speakers can understand you perfectly even though the content might be complex. Be patient, you'll know what Basic English is in two minutes !

The motivation

Have you ever been convinced by the result of a translation tool? Me, never. Today's translation tools are good for single words or maybe a phrase. But what about a whole text? What about complex, technical content? You won't understand anything from the result. But this is normal. The reason is that two distinct languages are way too different regarding the rules of grammar and the existence of homonyms that prevent simple, one-to-one word substitution. People who learned another language will know this. If teams at Google or IBM haven't succeeded yet in releasing a reliable translation tool, you can see the picture of how tough it is. Well, let me tell you that we have found a way to convert text – even complicated text – without losing information in the process. 

The Babel language

Basic English is the result of Mr. Charles Kay Ogden's work in the 1930's. He made up a version of English that contains only 1,000 essential words with which you can say anything you normally say. He also developed a course to teach Basic English in a month. Today, it is especially taught in Asia using this universal and efficient course. In a world where every second counts, it is important to learn fast and well. We used this reduced vocabulary as target language. Moreover, we added 30,000 scientific words defined using the 1,000 essential words. Check out the complete alphabetic list of those words and read further information about Basic English.

The tool

The tool we have developed is called Simplish. It works quite well actually. You enter some text

or upload some files

to translate them in Basic English. If you try it, you'll see this result. 

We use this color code to ease the reading.

With Simplish you can also add words to your personal dictionary to adapt it to your knowledge or the knowledge of the people you are writing to. 

We also provide online the complete Basic English course with the 45 Steps to learn or teach Basic English. 

If you are interested, you should try Simplish.  We are currently also working on an Android app for this course that has voice recognition to check pronunciation, grammar checker, text-to-speech and a conversational agent to chat with!

Well, that's quite good, isn't it ? But still not perfect.

The users

Examples are sometimes better than a detailed explanation. I'll present five different cases where Simplish would be very useful.

An entrepreneur dealing with China Your business is the design of tiny projectors that you can connect to your mobile phone. You have raised enough funds on Kickstarter and you are ready for production. The items are made in China and you have to firm a contract with your Chinese corespondent who knows some English but not enough to understand the legal file you are giving him. Simplish can translate the whole document and you will hand in two versions of the contract – the English one and the Basic English one – both containing the exact same information avoiding further legal issue and an expensive translation into Chinese.

A man with the RNA virus of the Orthomyxoviridae family Your doctor just announced you had the most aggressive RNA virus of Orthomyxoviridae family. Shocked and afraid you decide to search the internet for more information about this virus. After reading multiple articles about the disease and don't understand a word of what it is, you use Simplish to simplify one of them and benefit the 30,000 scientific words explained to find out you have the flu.

A journal writer Writer for a famous international newspaper, you want to write for a larger number of persons. Being a renowned financial audit expert, your articles are of high-level and translating them requires top-quality translators in various languages. However, using Simplish, you create a second version of your article that you can publish side by side with your original article targeting a broader public. Perhaps the Basic English version won't be marked by your so unique style, but the content will unaltered.

A message to a foreign friend It's been a while since you haven't heard anything from your friend Pierre-Alain de Moulinsart who lives in Paris. Your French is a bit lost in the the past so you use Google Translate to send him an email. Two days later, you receive a weird message from Pierre-Alain telling he won't talk to you anymore. A bit confused, you try to read the translation and find out you insulted him ! Using Simplish you wouldn't have changed the meanings of your words and your friend, even though French and not good with languages, would have understood you.

A medicine student struggling with an anatomy course Your day was long and tough. Arriving home, you have to study the anatomy course you just followed and don't understand anything it says. After looking for every terms you could understand, you are about to implode because everything is confused in your mind. That is when you enter the text in Simplish and read the simplified version that provide all the definition using simpler words. Now you can phagocytize the whole book without difficulty and without missing any important point.

That was for native English speakers. In the same manner, Simplish has of course great value for non-native English speakers. Actually, it has maybe even a higher interest for them. They can understand anything they read although they have only a little knowledge of English. With the emergence of Brazil, Russia, India and China, the implications are huge for text translators because a giant niche is growing. In 2011, 5 million Indian students graduated. English being the international and scientific language, imagine how important it is for those people to understand technical content. And this is just an example...

The issues

Let's see why we are not fully satisfied. You will notice that the text might be quite difficult to read because of the errors in the translation. Take a look at the example we provided.

You can see for instance that platform has been interpreted as operating system and that the plural noun projects has been translated as if it was the third-person singular of the verb to project – however the second appearance of the term has been interpreted correctly.We can see that, even though it works out well in most of the cases, in some other ones our dictionary is not complete enough and that the ambiguities are not always well resolved yet. As well, the grammar checker is not perfect since films, games, ... has been transformed into filmsgames even tough they are recognized as two different words – check it with the actual translation on the website, the tooltips are displayed adequately. Basically, at the moment, if you don't correct it you can't use the resulting text "out-of-the-box", which is our objective.

The improvements

 So what we need to improve is:

  • the resolution of ambiguity
  • the grammar checker
  • final tidy-up module
  • the general dictionary
  • the scientific dictionary
  • the legal dictionary
  • Minor software issues

When we say dictionaries, we mean defining the English words in terms of Basic English ones to carry out substitutions or explain them in footnotes. Well, this might seem complicated but it is not. The reason is that most of the computing part (mathematics, algorithms and coding) is done! We mainly need to improve the databases that contain the dictionaries and checkers. And for this, we must translate books from English to Basic English, correct the results word by word and update these databases! We have started to do this work but it is slow since we don't have the highly-trained human resources to finish it in a reasonable amount of time: keeping our current rhythm, we will be done in a looong time...

Concretely

Every book we translated and loaded in the database brought about a big change in the accuracy of translation. We calculate that with 10 more books translated and corrected, and the tool will be 99.99% correct. Therefore, we want to build a small team of:

  • 6 native English speakers translating and correcting each one or 2 books
  • 1 person taking care of ambiguity resolution and fine grammar issues
  • 1-2 developer(s) to implement those changes and do minor improvements

during 6 months each, and we are done with an amazing service that efficiently and without errors translates texts from English to Basic English. Only 8 people for 6 months to complete 7 years of research and development. Concretely, we need your support to pay those people and other related expenses.  It will not be a tough task to find them since we don't need Nobel Prized physicists, but well-educated individuals with a broad education level good enough to edit sophisticated English writing.

Thank you very much !

We don't mean to kill the language diversity on Earth that is essential to keep all the amazing cultures and their differences intact, but our efforts are leading to ease the universal communication between human beings and the general comprehension of any type of content, regardless of complexity. In a highly-connected, globalized world, this challenge is today undeniable. I would like to thank you very much for your support and interest in this project!

"But who are you?"

We have offices in Guildford, England and Guadalajara, Mexico. We are a small team of young, and some not-so-young, dynamic engineers, physicists and computer scientists and even a lawer from different places in the world: Mexico, Italy, Argentina, Switzerland, England...

Recently taken at a Friday pizza lunch!
Recently taken at a Friday pizza lunch!

Cheers!

Rewards

We offer as a reward, Premium accounts on Simplish. This account has these benefits :

  • Unlimited online translations
  • Unlimited file uploads
  • Manage your files
  • Personal dictionary to adapt the system

Normal and Basic accounts have limited translations and uploads. Besides, they don't allow to manage the files or have a personal dictionary.

A site license allows you to distribute Premium accounts to your whole company.  A law firm, for instance, could then use it to translate their papers into Basic English and provide two versions to their non-English speaking clients!

The t-shirts looks like this :

T-shirt design exclusive to simplish sponsors!
T-shirt design exclusive to simplish sponsors!

We worked with Hugo Boss to design them. It is gonna be in their next fashion collection. No kidding :)


Risks and challenges

Server stress at saturation point on user demand :

One of the risks is that a server saturates because of high demand. However, this is quite common a problem and it is still possible to upgrade the server capacity. We are renting servers from eapps and have, until now, never experienced saturation. We of course consider upgrading if this issue becomes serious and real.

Latency or difficulty to access the service from the East :

A huge demand from the East will occur with a good service as the one we are planning to provide. Today, our servers are localized in the UK and US, which is pretty far from India, China or Pakistan. We will implement some servers in Hong Kong when the demand is large enough from those oriental countries. In order to reduce latency in the process of texts and guarantee a fluid user experience from any place in the world.

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Support

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    Pledge £1 or more About $1.60

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    A one month transferable Premium account on Simplish.

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    A one month transferable Premium account on Simplish and a t-shirt.

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    Pledge £25 or more About $40

    A one year transferable Premium account on Simplish and also in thanks we will add your name to the list of sponsors credited on our website.

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    Pledge £30 or more About $48

    A one year transferable Premium account on Simplish, a t-shirt and also in thanks we will add your name to the list of sponsors credited on our website..

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    Pledge £50 or more About $80

    A one year transferable Premium account, a Simplish t-shirt and the 45-Steps Basic English course Android application.

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    Pledge £100 or more About $160

    Five transferable Premium accounts for one year and a t-shirt and the 45-steps Basic English course Android application.

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    Pledge £200 or more About $321

    A transferable Premium account on Simplish available for a lifetime.

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    Pledge £500 or more About $802

    Participate in the Simplish adventure ! Translate an article or any text into Basic English and correct this version. Simplish will improve and therefore the article and your name will be published on the site. You will of course receive a lifetime Premium account and a detailed explanation of how Simplish works by the CEO.

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    Pledge £1,000 or more About $1,604

    A lifetime site license for your company with unlimited Premium accounts and a detailed explanation of how Simplish works by the creator of the concept.

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    Pledge £2,000 or more About $3,209

    Become a sponsor of Simplish : your logo and a link to your company website will appear on the first page. You will also receive a lifetime site license with unlimited Premium accounts for the whole company and a detailed explanation of Simplish works by the creator of the concept.

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    Pledge £5,000 or more About $8,021

    A trip to Mexico! We invite you to visit our business partners' offices in Guadalajara, Mexico where our CEO spends part of the year and discover our work there. We will then offer you a well-deserved relaxing vacation in Puerto Vallarta for 5 days. You will also be a sponsor of Simplish: your logo and a link to your company website will appear on the first page of our site. With this, a lifetime site license with unlimited Premium accounts for the whole company. We shall pay the flights to Guadalajara, transfers to Puerto Vallarta and all-inclusive hotel.

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Funding period

- (50 days)