Google seems to think the sky is the limit when it comes to the number of languages that are featured on Google Translate. A number of African languages, such as Somali, Zulu and Igbo, might be added to the service. But how reliable are the translations in these exotic new languages going to be?
It seems that for their Google Translate service, Google is planning on adding every single language imaginable! According to the Guardian, the machine translation service, which is already available for a staggering 71 languages, might soon be enriched with Zulu, Hausa, Igbo, Somali and Yoruba; a clear sign of Google’s strategy for the emerging online market of Africa.
At the end of August, the Google+ Africa page featured a post that asked Google+ users to take a look at the quality of the translations in these African languages that were produced by the translation software.
These translations, conducted to and from English, can be rated as “Poor,” “Fair,” “Good” or “Excellent.”
At the moment, Google is mainly interested in improving the quality of the Zulu translations that their translation software can produce.
The company has asked people that are fluent in Zulu to help them assess the translations. And, according to The South African, this is very necessary. In her article Harriet Mann quotes Nicholous Mabilane, who co-majored in Zulu at university and now works as a candidate attorney at Webber Wentzel. Mabilane looked at the Google translations for The South African and wasn’t impressed:
“I find the translation very poor. It appears to me as if someone merely programmed Zulu terms straight from the dictionary without due consideration of the grammar rules of the language.”
The translation software for other African languages is also far from perfect. Habeeb Pindiga believes that the Hausa translation is in dire need of a few adjustments. According to him, only a small amount of words are translated properly and all of the sentences don’t make any sense at all.
Mann says that on their website, Google has stated that the reason for the imperfections of the translations is the fact that Google translate uses machine translations as their input. Google believes that when there is more input from human translators, the quality of the texts will improve. This means that over time, the Zulu translations will be just as good as translations in Google Translate’s existing languages.
When the five African Languages have been evaluated, Google will decide whether they will be a permanent addition to Google Translate or not. Mabilane supports the addition of Zulu to the service, as the language is in no danger of becoming extinct. In fact, he says it is the most frequently used indigenous language in South Africa!
Want to take a look at the translations yourself? Check out the Google+ Africa Page