Google Translate to add 13 new languages including Gaelic

GOOGLE has announced that Gaelic will be among 13 new languages to be added to its translation site.

A number of signposts in Scotland include Gaelic. Picture: Ian Rutherford
A number of signposts in Scotland include Gaelic. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Considered the world’s most advanced open translation site, Google Translate - which was established ten years ago with basic translations between English and Arabic, Chinese and Russian - will now offer 103 languages for translation.

The other 12 new languages are Shona, Sindhi, Pashto, Corsican, Frisian, Amharic, Kurmanji Kurdish, Luxembourgish, Samoan, Hawaiian, Kyrgyz and Xhosa.

A combined 12.5 million people speak the latter two languages, while there are over 100 million people who speak Pashto - common in Pakistan and Afghanistan - and Sindhi, an Indo-Aryan language spoken in the Sindh region as well as in Pakistan and Gujarat.

The addition of Luxembourgish completes the list of EU-recognised languages covered by Google Translate while Amharic is the most widely spoken Semitic language after Arabic.

But the service is yet to offer some prominent languages including Cantonese, Kurdish dialect Sorani and the Ethiopian languages Tigrinya and Tigre.

More than 87,500 people in Scotland have some Gaelic skills according to research from September 2015, and the indigenous language is also spoken to some degree by nearly 30,000 others, mostly in parts of Canada.

Gaelic was boosted by the Scottish Parliament’s Gaelic Language (Scotland) Act 2005, and Gaelic medium education in Scotland has grown in the past two to three years.

The majority of Gaelic speakers can be found in the Outer Hebrides (Eilean Siar), with the next largest number in the Highlands, or A’ Ghaidhealtachd.

Dspite a fall in the number of Gaelic speakers between 2001 and 2011, the number increased among youngster age groups, with over 600 more under-18s speaking Gaelic in 2011 than in 2001.

And the language looks set for a resurgence, with a growing number of musicians turning to Gaelic singers to add different elements to recorded music and live shows.

Singer Griogair Labhruidh, who performs under the stage name of Ghetto Croft and fronts the genre-bending Afro Celt Sound System group, has revealed his plans to record a Gaelic hip hop album later this year.

Google’s translation function relies on a combination of curated digital content and volunteers - more than three million people have already contributed around 200 million translated words - with the new languages due to be added in the coming days.

Google Translate’s Senior Program Manager Sveta Kelman said: “As we scan the Web for billions of already translated texts, we use machine learning to identify statistical patterns at enormous scale, so our machines can ‘learn’ the language.

“No matter what language you speak, we hope today’s update makes it easier to communicate with millions of new friends and break language barriers one conversation at a time.”

Bòrd na Gàidhlig interim CEO, Bruce Robertson added: “This is another significant milestone in the re-emergence and normalisation of Gaelic as one of the global languages in use in 2016.

“This means that millions of people can access translation facilities online which can only be good for the language as well as those who wish to use it or understand it.”