MPCC Argentinian student develops state-of-the-art translation tool

ai translator
Monday, April 15, 2024

Mid-Plains Community College has a new tool to help bridge the gap between English-speaking and non-English-speaking members of the public, students, faculty and staff.

MPCC student Juan Zanguitu, with assistance from Tara Naughtin, MPCC systems analyst, and Brady Heinz, assistant systems analyst, developed a language translation software tool using artificial intelligence.

Zanguitu understands firsthand the struggles that language barriers can create. He is from Argentina, and his native language is Spanish. Although he had a firm grasp of English before coming to the U.S., he’s cognizant of the fact that not everyone does.

“Mid-Plains Community College is a vibrant community with students, faculty and staff hailing from diverse linguistic backgrounds,” said Zanguitu. “However, this diversity also presents a significant challenge: communication barriers. Many international students do not speak English fluently, which can impact their academic journey, administrative processes and social integration within the college.”

He said the need for effective communication is critical to ensure that every member of the college can reap the full benefit of academic and extracurricular activities, comprehend college resources and engage in meaningful interactions with others on campus.

“This need is essential for fostering a supportive and inclusive environment where every member of the college, irrespective of their first language, has equal opportunities to succeed and engage,” Zanguitu said. “Non-English-speaking students need to know what their teachers are saying and what’s on the syllabus, and if they don’t, they’re already a step behind.”

He’s hoping the new one-stop solution will position Mid-Plains as a leader in innovation and leadership for leveraging technology to enhance educational accessibility by fostering a welcoming and inclusive environment and promoting an appreciation of diversity and equal participation for everyone.

He got the idea for the tool after his own experience of trying to find an accurate translation device.

“I like software development, and for that we use AI a lot,” Zanguitu said. “A key part that most translators are missing is the nuances and cultural background of the languages. I grew up using Google Translate and realize how limited it is. ChatGPT does a good job of taking into account not only the literal translations, but also the cultural meaning of those words. After I found out about artificial intelligence and ChatGPT, I thought why not mix them both and create a live interpreter and translator.”

His new AI-powered translation tool leverages the capabilities of the ChatGPT chatbot to provide real-time, accurate translations across a multitude of languages.

It translates emails and documents and offers live interpreter services. The latter will support a variety of settings such as lectures, meetings and college events, ensuring all participants can fully engage in the dialogue regardless of the language spoken.

Zanguitu believes the AI system could also eventually lead to the recruitment of a wider international student population by showcasing the college’s commitment to supporting linguistic diversity and easing the transition for non-English speakers.

The software was placed on tablets and will be piloted at both campuses in North Platte as well as those in McCook and Imperial.