*This article was submitted to TechCabal by bird story agency
Google recently announced the expansion of its offline translation by adding 33 new languages, including nine African languages, to the Google Translate app on iOS and Android.
This now brings the total number of African languages supported by Google to 12.
Arabic, Swahili and Afrikaans have been supported by the Google Translate offline translation tool since 2018 when Google launched the functionality.
Nigerian languages Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba and southern African languages, Sesotho, Xhosa, Zulu and Shona, are part of the newly added languages.
Additionally, Kinyarwanda, spoken in Rwanda and other parts of East Africa and Chichewa, which is common in Malawi and Zambia, will cater for a wider audience across the continent.
According to Google, the offline feature “allows users to download the languages of interest and translate text when an internet connection is unavailable.”
The additional languages, therefore, seek to expand the usage of the feature, with the overall target being to boost multicultural inclusivity and appeal to a broader audience.
The offering will also boost global recognition and acceptance of African languages and potentially increase their use.
According to Ofer Tirosh, a language and machine translation expert, Yoruba and Igbo are already spoken by close to 50 million people.
In a 2021 research article, ‘African Languages: A detailed look into the languages of Africa,’ Tirosh documents the place of translation in globalising business.
“Globalisation is key in order to obtain business success… translation serves to eliminate language barriers that limit globalisation,” he stated
Tirosh added that adding additional African languages to offline functionality “adds value to an already thriving online translation space for African languages.”
Besides Google Translate, Google has continued integrating African languages in its innovations and technology upgrades.
The Gboard, Google’s keyboard, can support personalised commands and accents in up to 200 African languages.
Apart from Google, Meta platforms have also endeavoured to provide features that offer African languages-specific commands and results.
For instance, Meta’s No Language Left Behind, NLLB, an open-source AI functionality, can translate internet content to about 60 African languages on Meta platforms.
Meta’s Instagram Lite also supports Swahili, Amharic and Oromo, some of the most widely-spoken languages in East Africa.
Africa is linguistically diverse, with an estimated 1,500 to 2,500 living languages and major as well as minor languages.
Hausa, for instance, is a major African language, is spoken by around 75 million people, while over 25 million people speak Hausa as a first language.
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