Google Translate just got its biggest update ever

Showcasing the Google Translate app on an Android device.
Bryan M. Wolfe / Digital Trends

For those who enjoy using Google Translate, here’s some exciting news: The translation app will soon support an additional 110 languages. Prior to this update, Google Translate had 133 total languages. In other words, Google is nearly doubling Translate’s language library.

In a recent blog update, Google mentioned leveraging AI models to increase the number of languages supported by the Google Translate app. Specifically, the PaLM 2 large language model makes these language additions possible.

The new languages coming to Google Translate include Afar, Cantonese, Manx, NKo, Punjabi (Shahmukhi), Tamazight (Amazigh), and Tok Pisin — just to name a few.

Afar is a tonal language spoken in Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Cantonese has long been one of the most requested languages for Google Translate. Manx is the Celtic language of the Isle of Man, while NKo is a standardized form of the West African Manding languages that unifies many dialects into a common language. Punjabi (Shahmukhi) is a variety of Punjabi written in the Perso-Arabic script (Shahmukhi) and is the most spoken language in Pakistan. Tamazight (Amazigh) is a Berber language spoken across North Africa, while Tok Pisin is an English-based creole and the lingua franca of Papua New Guinea.

About 25% of the new languages come from Africa, representing Google’s largest African language expansion to date. These include Fon, Kikongo, Luo, Ga, Swati, Venda, and Wolof.

Google Translate on a smartphone.

As Google explains, “From Cantonese to Qʼeqchiʼ, these new languages represent more than 614 million speakers, opening up translations for around 8% of the world’s population. Some are major world languages with over 100 million speakers. Others are spoken by small communities of Indigenous people, and a few have almost no native speakers but active revitalization efforts.”

PaLM 2, short for Pathways Language Model 2, is the next version of the original PaLM, and it comes with significant improvements in several areas. These improvements include multilingual expertise, coding capabilities, and enhanced reasoning abilities. With PaLM 2, Google Translate can learn closely related languages more efficiently. Additionally, Google has partnered with expert linguists and native speakers to further support a broader range of language varieties and spelling conventions in the future.

Through the 1,000 Languages Initiative, Google hopes to build AI models supporting the 1,000 most-spoken languages worldwide.