Google Adding 5 African Languages To Its Auto-Translation Service

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Google announced Thursday it plans to add five African languages – Somali, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba and Zulu – to its list of options on Google Translate, the search engine giant’s free automatic translation service, according to the Guardian.

Google Translate already supports 71 languages but the possible inclusion of Somali, Zulu and other African ones has been met with wide approval and excitement, the report said. However, users have pointed out that there are some tweaks needed.

Since Nigeria’s independence, the main languages have been Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba, collectively known by the word “wazobia,” a composite of “wa” from Yoruba, “zo” from Hausa, and “bia” in Igbo, which all mean “to come,” according to IgboGuide.

Yoruba is the native language of about 30 million Nigerians and others in neighboring Republic of Benin and Togo.

Somali is spoken by ethnic Somalis in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Yemen and Kenya, and by the Somali diaspora.

Hausa is a language with about 39 million speakers, mainly in northern Nigeria and Niger, and also in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Eritrea, Germany, Ghana, Sudan and Togo.

With 10 million speakers, Zulu is the most widely spoken home language in South Africa (24 percent of the population) as well as being understood by more than 50 percent of the population.

The free Google Translate service has evolved to attempt instantaneous translations. It offers a “toolkit” for speakers of more marginal languages to establish their own services, and it is used tens of millions of times a day to translate web pages and other text, a Guardian report said.

Google invited users on the Google Africa page to try out the African language translations and then evaluate them.

Users’ comments ranged from overjoyed to critical. Here are some respondents’ comments:

Oladipo Oloruntobi said, “Wow…three Nigerian languages. I’m gonna participate actively in the Yoruba evaluation – been my mother tongue – and a bit in the Igbo and Hausa evaluations to the best of my knowledge.”

Genice Wilson said, “Need this.”

Mohamed Adam said, “Awesome Somali Language will be translated in Google, that is what we’re waiting for.”

Adedayo Oluokun said, “The Yoruba translation is totally wrong.”

Dubem Enyekwe said, “Good job Google. I did check out the Igbo translation. I did say it’s pretty neat. The observation I made was that going from Igbo to English was better than going from English to Igbo. In all good job Google.”

Faysel Ali said, “It’s definitely a great stride forward for Somali people around the world and for Google to come and save this great African language. Over the years there’s been some great work done to save and advance it and this adds more spark in that strive as well as to showcase what Google stands for. Good job Google and thank you very much. Somalia ha noolaato.”

Safiyan Hamisu said, “Ready to do all to improve Hausa. Overjoyed to hear this. Wow, Hausa on Google Translation.”