Africa’s only own Alphabet Amharic on Google now, Translate



  • Travellers can now translate speech in real-time in a total of 103 languages
  • Additions include Scots Gaelic, Corsican, Kurdish, Samoan and Hawaiian
  • Google Translate can now be used by 99 per cent of the world’s population


PUBLISHED: 16:40 GMT, 18 February 2016 | UPDATED: 17:41 GMT, 18 February 2016

Talking to people on holiday has just got a lot easier after Google added 13 new languages to its Translate app.

Travellers can now translate speech in real-time in a total of 103 languages, with new additions including Scots Gaelic, Corsican, Kurdish, Samoan and Hawaiian.

The addition of the languages means Google Translate can now be used by 99 per cent of the world’s population.

There are thought to be around 7,000 different spoken languages in the world.

However, 2,000 of these have fewer than 1,000 speakers and 90 percent are used by less than 100,000 people.

Supporting 103 languages will mean around 120 million new people will be able to benefit from the app, which allows users to let their phone listen to someone talk and get a written translation of what they are saying, in real-time, on the screen.


The 13 languages added to Translate are Amharic (Ethiopia), Corsican (Island of Corsica, France), Frisian (Netherlands and Germany), Kyrgyz (Kyrgyzstan), Hawaiian (Hawaii), Kurdish (Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Syria), Luxembourgish (Luxembourg), Samoan (Samoa and American Samoa), Scots Gaelic (Scottish highlands, UK), Shona (Zimbabwe), Sindhi (Pakistan and India), Pashto (Afghanistan and Pakistan) and Xhosa (South Africa).

Google said it wants to continue to support even more of the world’s languages by involving native speakers whose languages aren’t already included in the app.

‘We’ve come a long way with over 100 languages, but we aren’t done yet,’ said Google Translate’s senior program manager, Sveta Kelman.

‘If you want to help, International Mother Language day – just around the corner on February 21 – is a great time to get involved in Translate Community.’

‘To start, just select the languages you speak; then choose to either translate phrases on your own or validate existing translations. 

‘Every contribution helps improve the quality of translation over time.’

Google’s move to support over 100 languages builds on the firm’s current Translate tools, which offer written as well as spoken translations on both iOS and Android devices. 

The app has also updated its Word Lens tool. Word Lens lets people use camera mode to take a photo of text and get a translation in 36 languages. Now, while using the Translate app, users can point their camera at a sign or text and see the translated text overlaid on the screen – even if they don’t have a data connection 

The move builds on Google's current tools, which offer written translation of 90 languages, as well spoken translations in a select number of languages on Android devices (pictured)

The move builds on Google’s current tools, which offer written translation of 90 languages, as well spoken translations in a select number of languages on Android devices (pictured)



Word Lens uses augmented reality to translate text including road signs, menus, newspapers, and more by pointing a phone’s camera towards it.

Supported languages include Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, German and Portuguese.

Google bought the technology by acquiring California-based developers Quest Visual in May last year.  

Available on iOS, Android and Google Glass, users choose the language they want to translate to and from, before holding a camera up to text, such as a road sign or menu.

Word Lens automatically translates the text and overlays it on the same image on the phone’s display.

As part of the latest app update, this feature now works without a data connection.  

Google Translate is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year and since launching in 2006, has grown to offer users an array of language tools, including the introduction speech-to-text translation, which interprets what someone is saying, in real time, on the screen.

Google launched the feature just over a year ago and has seen much success as it makes conversing with someone of a different language much easier than before.

Users with the app simply have to tap the microphone to enter the voice translation mode.

Tapping it again means it will automatically recognise which language is being spoken by both members of the conversation.

Once the two languages have been recognised, the app will be poised to translate speech, meaning the user doesn’t need to press the mic button again.

Translate can also recognise handwritten notes and translate these into text, and users can point their phone cameras at road signs, for example, to translate them in real-time.

The Word Lens tool works in 36 languages, including English to and from French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

Translations in the app aren’t always perfect but Google hopes users will share feedback directly on how it could improve.

‘For each new language, we make our translations better over time, both by improving our algorithms and systems and by learning from your translations with Translate Community,’ Kelman added.

Google said the update will roll out ‘over the coming days’.