Google Translate Almost Doubles its Language Coverage Overnight

Google Translate Almost Doubles its Language Coverage Overnight

Google has announced that — for the first time in its history — it has released over 100 languages at once to its Google Translate product, almost doubling its language coverage overnight from 133 languages to 243.

The languages span from small indigenous languages with few native speakers, to major world languages with over 100 million natives, extending its translation coverage to an additional 8% of the world’s population.

Google credits its latest large language model, PALM2, with powering the expansion. PALM2 reportedly performed better translations than Google Translate itself, according to Google’s research paper released last year.

Google’s Senior Software Engineer, Isaac Caswell, stated that Google leveraged PaLM 2 to “more efficiently learn languages that are closely related to each other, including languages close to Hindi, like Awadhi and Marwadi, and French creoles like Seychellois Creole and Mauritian Creole.”

However, the company recognized the challenges in adding these new languages to its offering, with “regional varieties, dialects, [and] different spelling standards” — factors it takes into account when rolling out new languages, and which the company is actively researching

“Our approach has been to prioritize the most commonly used varieties of each language. […] As technology advances, and as we continue to partner with expert linguists and native speakers, we’ll support even more language varieties and spelling conventions over time”, Caswell stated.

On announcement of the new languages, users flooded to social media platform X expressing excitement about the availability of their native languages. One native speaker of Iban — a Malayo-Polenisian language with less than three million native speakers — tweeted that while the translation could be improved, “for a language that just launched in Google Translate, it’s quite impressive.”

Yesterday’s release comes two months after Google Translate shelved its “Contribute” feature, which allowed humans to “improve this translation” and suggest an alternative. 

The company plans to use AI to extend its language coverage further, as part of its 1,000 Languages Initiative — a commitment to support the world’s 1,000 most spoken languages by using AI technology.