• Alysa Salzberg

Linguist explores why Google Translate can’t get certain languages right

Google Translate has changed the world, making instant translation easy for anyone with internet access…but of course, as most of us know, not all of these translations are accurate.


Speakers of the West African language Yorùbá experience this issue often, linguist and Yorùbá language expert Aremu Adeola Jr. shares in a recent, amusingly snarky article for website Global Voices.


But beneath the snark lies a fascinating and simple explanation for the errors. It’s not just about a machine being unableto fully understand the subtleties of human language. Google Translate’s AI is based on crowdsourcing, and languages like Yorùbá don’t have a massive online presence.


Add to this the fact that, like internet content in a lot of languages, some Yorùbá writing online is misspelled enough to be considered useless by AI, and you’ve got a recipe for a real

knowledge deficit.


Fortunately, Google, as well as other companies and organizations, are working to improve translations of Yorùbá and other African languages. Read on to learn more about that, as well as the current issues Yorùbá internet users face when it comes to their native language.




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