When Google learned to speak Sorani Kurdish, it was mainly thanks to 31-year-old Bokan Hassan, or Bokan Jaff, who graduated from the University of Sulaimani in 2014 with a degree in English but struggled to find work. Neighbors often asked him for help because most automated translation platforms did not include their language. After trying for years to contact Google, Jaff made a connection in 2019 through an online Argentine friend and soon was serving as a link between Google engineers and a community of language enthusiasts in Kurdistan whose work eventually created a beta version of the Translate platform. Without their work, it is unlikely that Google would have added Sorani, even through it’s spoken by an estimated 8 million people and is one of Iraq’s two official languages. While the new Sorani translation service is widely available, it’s owned by Google’s parent, Alphabet, which didn’t pay Jaff and his friends for their work.

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