News Brief

Google To Improve On Kiswahili, IsiZulu and IsiXhosa Translations

Poor translations of Kiswahili, IsiZulu and IsiXhosa to improve on Google Translate.

SOUTH AFRICA–You may or may not have noticed how poorly Google Translate interprets African languages such as IsiZulu, IsiXhosa and KiSwahili. The feature normally translates word-for-word which results in incoherent sentences.


Well, that's going to come to an end, according to Google South Africa. The South African newspaper, City Press reports that this will be achieved by machines being taught to teach themselves using long short-term memories called LSTMs.

The update will enable machines to translate the languages almost similar to how human beings do. Laura Scott, Google’s manager of Reputation Communications and Public Affairs was quoted by the paper saying, “With neural translation we believe that the translations are now significantly better than they were before, particularly with long sentences.”

Scott further highlighted the challenges the tech giant faces with the three languages. “It is of course very complicated to see improvements in languages where there’s not such a body of reference material, like in IsiZulu, IsiXhosa and Kiswahili—the improvements won’t be as huge as the Chinese improvements we saw last year, for instance. So that might mean that some of the short word translations are not as good as you might expect, but we think that the trade-off is good, and we’ve seen enough of an improvement to think that those are worth being let into the world.”

Which explains why there are still some translations the application still gets wrong. But hopefully, with time, things will get better.

Read the full report on the City Press website here.

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