Kurdish absent from Istanbul Airport’s instant translation service

A new instant translation service has come online to help passengers at Istanbul Airport in 36 different languages and 80 separate dialects, but Turkish news site Duvar reported that one language is glaringly absent from the system: Kurdish.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) brought the omission to the agenda at parliament when lawmaker Meral Danış Beştaş asked why Kurdish, dialects of which are spoken by the country’s largest ethnic minority, some 15 million, was considered less important than dozens of foreign languages.

The system helps travellers communicate with airport staff through an automated translation application that works by speaking into a tablet’s microphone.

“No place has been given to Kurdish in a broad-ranging technological service that covers 36 languages and 80 dialects; the obstacle preventing more than 20 million Kurds from using their mother tongue for transport and other public services remains in place,” Beştaş said.

“From hospitals to public institutions, citizens who don’t speak Turkish face many difficulties. An explanation is required for why Kurdish has not been added to an instant translation service on a critical platform that will deliver announcements on plane travel times,” she said.