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“Itzulbide” project: a tool for normalizing the use of Basque in clinical histories

The use of machine translation tools between languages in today’s society is common and widespread. Our Ixa group of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU) has extensive experience in the Natural Language Processing for Basque. In this context, UPV-EHU and Osakidetza (The official Organization for Health in the Basque Country) in 2019 saw the opportunity to develop a tool adapted to the clinical field by using the new technological conditions (use of the successful paradigm of neural networks in machine translation) and also by taking profit of the new professional conditions (increase of bilingual staff who want to work in Basque and significant number of new young doctors trained in Basque at the university).

Translation is not, not even the development of automatic translators, the final objective in Basque Country official plans, but a potentially useful tool to get it. The objective of the Basque Country official plans, as well as that of Osakidetza, is to increase the presence and use of  Basque language in its everyday clinical histories, and it must be demonstrated whether  this tool will contribute to this goal. In fact, Itzulbide has been launched as a research project based on the hypothesis that if the general domain MT system is taught to translate in the clinical field, in the future we will have a fast and reliable translation tool. Within a few years it will be seen whether this hypothesis is fulfilled.

The project began in June 2019 and the promoters of this project (Ixa Group of the UPV/EHU and the Osakidetza Itzulbide working group) have begun to carry out the open presentations of the center to center project to clarify the opinions and doubts of the professionals and collect the contributions of the professionals. At the time of the writing of this text, 68 professionals from different specialties and categories collaborated in the project, creating bilingual clinical texts. Encouragement and thanks to all the participants!

The “Itzulbide” Automatic Translator project does not prevent or condition the other complementary specific language objectives and normalization measures currently included in the Osakidetza’s Basque Language Plan.

If its usefulness is demonstrated, the tool will be integrated into the information system of Osakidetza, but in addition, the development of this tool could extend to the entire healthcare community (professionals of public and private companies, pharmacists, university students and professors, and non-university health, residents, professional associations) and to the geographical scope of the Basque language. It can also be a help tool for professionals who are learning Basque. In summary, the possible use of Itzulbide could go beyond clinical history.

A project of this type can generate doubts, but we will test and measure whether this tool brings us closer to the objectives of the Basque Country’s Language Plan, give an opportunity to Itzulbide.

EHU-Ixa and Itzulbide-Osakidetza


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