51 Languages in Google Translate

August 31, 2009

Posted by Franz Och, Principal Scientist

Are you using Google Translate to access the world's information? It can help you find and translate local restaurant and hotel reviews into your language when planning a vacation abroad, allow you to read the Spanish or French Editions of Google News, communicate with people who speak different languages using Google Translate chat bots, and more. We're constantly working to improve translation quality, so if you haven't tried it recently, you may be pleasantly surprised with what it can do now.

We're especially excited to announce that we've added 9 new languages to Google Translate: Afrikaans, Belarusian, Icelandic, Irish, Macedonian, Malay, Swahili, Welsh, and Yiddish, bringing the number of languages we support from 42 to 51. Since we can translate between any two of these languages, we offer translation for 2550 language pairs!

How do we decide which languages to add to Google Translate? Our goal is to provide automatic translation for as many languages as possible. So internally we've been collecting data and building systems for more than 100 languages. Whenever a set of languages meets our quality bar we consider it for our next language launch. We've found that one of the most important factors in adding new languages to our system is the ability to find large amounts of translated documents from which our system automatically learns how to translate. As a result, the set of languages that we've been able to develop is more closely tied to the size of the web presence of a language and less to the number of speakers of the language.

We're very happy that our technology allows us to produce machine translation systems for languages that often don't get the attention they deserve. For many of the newly supported languages ours is the only mature and freely available translation system. While translation quality in these languages will be noticeably rougher than for languages we've supported for a longer time like French or Spanish, it is most often good enough to give a basic understanding of the text, and you can be sure that the quality will get better over time.

Remember, you can also use Google Translate from inside other Google products. For example you can translate e-mails within GMail, translate web pages using Google Toolbar, translate RSS news feeds from around the world in Google Reader, and translate documents in Google Docs. (The new languages aren't available in these products yet but will be soon!) And, if you're translating content into other languages, you can use our technology within Google Translator Toolkit to help you translate faster and better. In the future, expect to find our translation technology in more places, making it increasingly simple to get access to information no matter what language it is written in.