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Community Spotlight: Meet Bokan Hassan from Kurdistan (Iraq)

Smitha Pillai, July 2022

Welcome to our Community Spotlight series, where we bring to you real stories from members of the global Crowdsource community.

Today, we are excited to shine a spotlight on Bokan Hassan (fondly known as Bokan Jaff), a Crowdsource influencer, community builder and top contributor from Kurdistan, Iraq.  Bokan Hassan is one of the key contributors of Google Crowdsource community who has helped add Sorani dialect of Kurdish to the list of languages available on Google Translate. In this blog post, he shares his personal story and experience with Crowdsource.

Bokan Hassan Crowdsource influencer, from Kurdistan
🔥 Rapid-fire with Bokan
  • What's your current superpower?
  • Since 2015, I have translated 2,500,000 phrases, proverbs, and individual words from English to Kurdish to help Google.
  • What’s a superpower that you wish you had?
  • The ability to look into the future and see what tomorrow holds.
  • What is your favorite task on Crowdsource?
  • Audio donation is my favorite task on Crowdsource, as I want Kurdish Sorani to be incorporated across Google products that use and support audio.
  • What/who inspires you the most in life?
  • My father. He inspired me to work for my language, Kurdish Sorani and through that for my nation.
  • If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
  • I would tell my younger self to travel around the world and learn more languages.
  • What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • When I was in school, one of my teachers had prophesied that I will make my dream come true. I met him after Kurdish Sorani was added into the list of languages in Google Translate and he reminded me of what he had told me, many years back. That is a fond memory that has come true.
  • What has been your favorite subject at school?
  • English Literature & poetry. I love (Kurdish) poetry from the greats like Goran, Mahwi, Nali, Ahmed Mukhtar Jaff etc.
  • What would you consider to be your spirit animal?
  • Dog, because it's very loyal and does not forget a good deed done to it. It remembers and repays good with good.

How did you discover Crowdsource?

I have been contributing to Google Translate since 2015. Though I did discover Crowdsource on my own while searching for opportunities to develop Kurdish Sorani, one gentleman in particular, Cesar Romero, from Argentina introduced me to the platform formally and I was able to share my desire of adding my language. It started with a simple hangout meeting where we discussed the need to have a voice for Kurdish Sorani. The language got added in 2019 and since then I have been actively engaging with the community.

What does Crowdsource mean to you? How do you think it is helpful?

When we started, Crowdsource seemed like a world library housing all the languages. But today the world and most importantly my community in Kurdistan understands the importance of AI. There are my compatriots who have been working in silos. I would urge them all to come together and work under one umbrella to develop Kurdish Sorani and make the world accessible to us. The Crowdsource team has been incredibly helpful and I hope to continue my journey with their support.

What inspires/motivates you to contribute to Crowdsource?

I have a regular job at an optic fiber company, but what really drives me to contribute to Crowdsource is the love for my language. This love for Kurdish Sorani has been instilled in me by my parents and I always try and find time to make my contributions even if it were weekends or weekdays. To see my language and my community flourish and make a name for themselves is of priority to me. I believe one day I can do more on Crowdsource with more opportunities opening up for Kurdish Sorani.

What is the current situation of your community and what are your plans to build the community further in Iraq?

While the community is developing online, internet penetration is not the best. This prevents us from making efficient contributions. While I work in a telecommunications organization, I am able to access the internet for free at work and home. However, in any other location, accessibility is a real struggle. I am working to overcome this challenge for the community.

The top things you'd like others to know about your country.

My home is in Halabja city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. This is the site of the chemical attack where more than 5000 civilians lost their lives and thousands have been affected by the after-effects. So, the city and the language Sorani both have been kind of re-born. This is also one of the reasons that people like me want to see our language and culture come out strong. Halabja is home to historical sites like Bakrawa and the monument commemorating the 5000 who died in the chemical attack. Kurdish food is another great attraction, kubba (minced rice and meat pattie), yaprakh (stuffed grape-leaf with rice and meat ), biriyani (flavored rice with meat) and kalana are famous.

So is the weather, especially in spring where people go out on picnics, wear traditional kurdish clothes like Faranji, Kollwana, Klash and dance to traditional music.

Where do you see your Crowdsource community in the next 12 months to 5 years?

While translations and validations have been key for the language, I would like to take this application and the opportunities it opens up to the education sector. I would like our younger generation to reap the benefits of our hard work. For this to be a reality, I look forward to Crowdsource opening up the platform for audio donation and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).

This might be slightly from the sci-fi realm, but what I envision is mind reading via waves without spoken or written word. At a practical level, I would love to see the ability to paraphrase proverbs, synonyms, etc in Kurdish Sorani which would help put words in context and will also enable propagation of the culture.

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