Google Translate now supports 13 additional languages, bringing the total to over 100 (103 to be exact). According to Google’s estimate, the free translation service now covers an astonishing 99% of the online population.
Google Translate has come a long way. It first launched in 2006 using an early form of computer-assisted translation, based on information from dictionaries, grammar guides and other sources. The first language pair in April 2006 was English and Arabic, which was then followed by translations between English, Chinese and Russian in December 2006. The number of supported languages began to increase in 2007, and now, a decade later, the service has passed the 100 languages mark.
The newest languages include Amharic (which is spoken in Ethiopia); Corsican; Frisian (the Netherlands and Germany); Kyrgyz; Hawaiian; Kurdish; Luxembourgish; Samoan; Scots Gaelic; Shona (Zimbabwe); Sindhi (Pakistan and India); Pashto (Afghanistan and Pakistan); and Xhosa (South Africa). Google says the latest addition will help bring “a combined 120 million new people to the billions who can already communicate with Translate all over the world.”
The announcement about the new languages was made on the Google Translate blog, which also explains how they choose which new languages to add to the service. Google says that first of all, any new contender must be a written language. In addition, they also need a significant amount of translations in the new language to be available on the web. These online resources help to improve the machine translations, which are further refined by human volunteers from the Google Translate community. More than 3 million people have added around 200 million translations to the growing database, with the goal of making the translations increasingly reliable. Without this valuable human input, the translations can be inaccurate, and sometimes downright bizarre.
Google has also updated its Breakdown Page, which displays the features supported by each language. There are six ways Google Translate can support a language: Type (using your keyboard); Talk (a bilingual conversation); Snap (translating images of text); See (seeing instant translations through your phone’s camera); Write (drawing letters or characters with your finger); and Offline (translations without a data connection). The 13 new languages are currently only available for typing.
Dynamic Language definitely does not recommend machine translation alone for most translation projects, since human translation along with a certified quality process is the only truly dependable method for maintaining accuracy. However, machine translation is improving, and definitely has its purpose and role within our industry. While it may not be completely accurate, the sheer speed in which it allows you to understand the gist of a foreign text is remarkable. The fact that Google can now offer this basic service in over 100 languages is even more impressive.
To learn more about the newest languages available in Google Translate, or to start expanding your own linguistic horizons, check out Google’s full blog post and offerings.
Why is Google investing in global translation? Read more in the CSM’s piece about the increasing reasons why companies like Google are investing in this kind of technology, which includes Dynamic Language’s perspective on what’s at stake and why tech companies are so interested.