If you’ve ever been stumped by something written in Krio, Ewe, or Tigrinya, Google Translate was not going to help you out, unlike over 100 other languages.
However, Google just announced the inclusion of 24 languages to this capability, including ten spoken in Africa.
The new African languages are:
• Bambara – spoken in Mali
• Ewe – spoken in Ghana and Togo
• Krio – spoken in Sierra Leone
• Lingala – spoken in large parts of central Africa including the Democratic Republic of Congo
• Luganda – spoken in Uganda and Rwanda
• Oromo – spoken in Ethiopia
• Sepedi – spoken in South Africa
• Tigrinya – spoken in Eritrea and Ethiopia
• Tsonga – spoken in South Africa
• Twi – spoken in Ghana
Amharic, Hausa, and Somali were among the other African languages that were previously available.
Previously, software that was used to translate and learn how to enhance interpretation was fed content that had previously been translated.
In the more widely spoken and used languages, there is a significant and growing amount of text – but not in many others.
According to Google, these new features are based on cutting-edge software that does not require previous instances.
Google Translate’s research scientist Isaac Caswell told the BBC that this work was part of “expanding coverage to many communities who were very much overlooked not just by Google but other technologies in general”.
But will the translations be accurate? Many polyglots have up to now noted problems with the languages already available.
“For many supported languages, even the largest languages in Africa that we have supported – say like Yoruba, Igbo, the translation is not great. It will definitely get the idea across but often it will lose much of the subtlety of the language,” Mr Caswell admitted.
With the new languages, he said, it would be no different. But the people who helped in the research said it was a good place to start.
“Some of the Krio [speakers] said, ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’
“In the end, we have to make the call. And my impression from other people I have talked to was that it was a very positive thing for them.”