Noah has an app-titude for languages

A love affair with languages has inspired Noah Little to develop his own translation tool.

29 September 2020
Male student wearing school uniform holds a mobile phone with his right hand. Phone screen shows language app interface.
Image: Noah Little has designed a Chinese translation app.

Year 12 student Noah Little has already sat his first HSC exam and rated it “the easiest exam I’ve ever done”.

That view of his Chinese-speaking test is not surprising given the Wagga Wagga High School student is passionate about language – so much so he has built a Chinese translation app that he hopes to launch on the world.

Noah said his love affair with language was inspired by his community.

“Wagga Wagga is a very multicultural place and sometimes when I meet new people who have trouble speaking English I like to talk to them in their own language,” he says.

“I also had a few Chinese-background friends so thought it would be cool to talk to them in their language.”

The 17-year-old started teaching himself Mandarin around five years ago, before enrolling in distance education classes at the start of Year 11.

“It was one of the best things I did because it gave me the motivation and pushed me to learn more,” he said of his language classes.

His language ability was also useful in his part-time job at a local Chinese takeaway, where he translates orders for the chefs and customers.

Noah said Chinese customers were always surprised to hear him speak fluent Chinese.

Not content with mastering Mandarin and Cantonese, Noah said he also had a basic knowledge of seven languages, including Thai, Vietnamese, Japanese and the Filipino language, Tagalog.

“Surprising I’ve never left Australia, but I don’t think that impacts the way I’ve learned the languages,” he said.

It was while teaching himself languages that Noah got the inspiration for the translation tool.

“I decided to make my own app because there wasn’t a lot around – all the other apps were full of ads and the translation feature wasn’t powerful enough,” he said.

His app includes a word of the day feature, lessons on how to write Chinese characters and a news feed of important Chinese news.

Noah said his multimedia studies teacher had given excellent feedback that helped him rethink his design to improve the application and widen its compatibility with various platforms.

He said learning the computer programming to build the app had been like studying another language.

With the end of school in sight, Noah said he would like to pursue both his interests in computer programming and languages.

“I'm planning to work for a year and save so I can go on to university as I definitely want to make a career out of one of these two.”

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