8 Surprising Languages Not on Google Translate

Think Google Translate can handle all of your translation needs? Think again! There are around 3,570 written languages in the world. Google can only translate 103 of them. What’s missing? Popular languages with millions of speakers.

The gaps in Google Translate’s coverage of the world are most glaring in Africa, Asia and South America. Here are 8 surprising languages that Google can’t translate.



With around 60 million native speakers, Cantonese is the official language of Hong Kong and Macau. It is the 24th most commonly spoken language in the world. It has more native speakers than Dutch, Swedish and Greek put together. And it’s not included in Google Translate. At the moment, Google only supports Mandarin Chinese, though that will likely change in the future.

Odia or Oriya

Which language:

  • Has 33 million native speakers
  • Is an official language of India and the Indian states of Odisha and Jharkhand
  • is designated as a “Classical Language” in India AND
  • is not covered by Google Translate?

The answer is Odia, also known as Oriya. This is another language that the Google Translate team is working on. It hasn’t been a high priority because “The online presence of Odia is quite insignificant,” as Subhashish Panigrahi, programme officer at Centre for Internet and Society, explained to the Telegraph of India.    Read more

Translate Your Website: 50 Resources to Connect With A Global Audience

Want to translate your website? There’s more to it than meets the eye.

Translating the text word-for-word might seem simple. But it’s often more challenging than it looks…and it’s often not enough. To truly connect with your customers, your site must take into account their culture, beliefs, aesthetics and values.

Website localization is the process of adapting your site to connect with customers in new languages and cultures. Translation is part of that. You may also need to alter the design, change the imagery or adjust the content to better resonate with your target audience. Oh, and don’t forget to make sure your site works on the devices your audience uses to get on the web, and make sure they can find it on the local search engines!

There’s a lot to think about! You may have encountered obstacles along the way, or  you may not even know where to start.  No matter where you are on this journey, these resources will help you better understand the issues involved.

Getting Started

Getting Started: How to Get Website Translation Right the First Time

Ready to get started? Before you begin, it’s helpful to have an overview of what it takes to be successful. These articles will help you better understand the website localization process, including common obstacles and potential pitfalls.

Read more

I Love You: How 3 Words Get Lost in Translation 

Sunday was Valentine’s Day.  Chocolate is now available at 75% off. Giant teddy bears slump, forlorn, in drugstore clearance bins. Three little words are everywhere: “I love you.” They are written in gold on red heart-shaped candy boxes, across cards, and on dozens of those little conversation heart candies that nobody actually eats.

Those three little words seem like they should be easy enough to translate. And on the surface, they are. For example, this blog post will tell you how to say “I love you” in 25 languages.

But it’s not enough to know how to say it…it’s also important to know when to say it. And in many other cultures, the weekend’s orgy of “I love you’s” would be almost unthinkable.

As Uri Friedman points out the The Atlantic:

“Many people in this world would find my behavior rather strange. That’s because Americans are exceptionally promiscuous when it comes to professing their love. In the United States, “I love you” is at once exalted and devalued. It can mean everything … or nothing at all. This is not universally the case.”

Some cultures declare love with abandon, throwing the words around like confetti. In other cultures, they are reserved almost exclusively for spouses, and even then rarely spoken.  In a 2005 study from City University of New York, some respondents were almost horrified by the ease with which Americans use the phrase. For example, Jung, a Korean woman, said

‘‘I don’t know why, but in my culture, to tell a person ‘I love you,’ so hard to come out from a mouth. We feel in heart but to say it is a very hard thing to do.”

Read more

More Than a Feeling: Untranslatable Emotions

Having trouble putting your feelings into words?  Try another language! Emotions are universal, but the words we use to describe them are not.  To prove the point, here are 17 words for emotions with no direct English translation. Read through this list of untranslateable emotions, and see how many times you find yourself nodding in recognition.

Forelsket (Norwegian)- That walking-on-a-cloud feeling you get when you first fall in love. Like so:

Gigil (Filipino)- The uncontrollable desire to squeeze or pinch something cute.

Waldeinsamkeit (German): The peaceful, transcendent, contemplative feeling you get when you’re walking alone in the woods.

Schadenfreude (German): The pleasure you take from someone else’s misery, as illustrated below by Homer Simpson.

Ei viitsi (Estonian): That feeling you get when you can’t be bothered to go anywhere or do anything. Read more

French Spelling Fracas: New Rules Spur Protests 

French speakers, take note: new spellings are coming for thousands of French words, and not everyone is happy about it. The spelling changes are an attempt to simplify the written language and make it more consistent, but language purists and politicians alike have been flocking to the virtual “streets” of social media in protest.

What’s Changing: Does An Oignon By Any Other Name Still Make You Cry?

The changes affect approximately 2,400 French words, and most of them fall into one of the following categories:

  • Some vowels will be dropped from certain words, like the i in oignon (onion), which will now be spelled ognon.
  • Missing hyphens, as week-end becomes weekend and mille-pattes (millipede) becomes millipede. 
  • The circumflex accent will disappear from the and in most words in which it doesn’t indicate tense or affect meaning. So, maîtresse will become maitresse, and disparaître will become disparaitre.
  • Hyphens will added in some words, and some accent marks will change. For example, réglementaire will become règlementaire.

The reforms are designed to make French spelling easier to learn. For example, as Chantal Contant, a French linguist and professor at the University of Quebec at Montreal told The Star.com:

Ognon already once existed in the dictionary and now they are bringing ognon in line with trognon de pomme (apple core), grognon (grumpy) and rognon de veau (veal kidney).”

These new spellings have actually been in the works for the past 26 years, but everyone felt free to ignore them until last week, when it was announced that they would be integrated into new French textbooks and curriculum. That made people upset. Very upset. Read more

5 Translation Industry Predictions for 2016

To quote Bob Dylan, times are changing…and the translation industry is changing, too. Every year, the world grows smaller, better connected and more technologically advanced. What will 2016 bring for the translation industry? We’ve dusted off our crystal balls to give you a sneak peak into the future!

Companies Who Take Translation Seriously Will Reap the Rewards

Ready to expand into new markets? If the borders of your home country are starting to feel a little small, there’s never been a better time to conquer the world.  Especially for e-commerce and other web-based businesses, translation represents a tremendous opportunity to get in ahead of the competition.

For example,translation company Smartling recently polled 150 US marketers and found that 48 percent were not marketing outside of the US at all. Even fewer companies were taking advantage of the unique opportunities created by localisation, as 86 percent admitted to simply translating English language content without customising it to the target market.

Meanwhile, according to research from Common Sense Advisory:

When looking across sectors, we found that company size, website popularity, and brand value all show positive correlation to the number of languages found…Yet one out of three websites (37%) visited turned out to be monolingual.

So, companies that are willing to take their foreign language customers seriously and make an effort to craft marketing content for them in their own languages have a tremendous opportunity to get ahead of the competition. Will you let it pass you by? Read more

Google Translate Mistakes: 6 Times Google Went Rogue

On the surface, Google Translate might seem like a simple, free translation service for businesses.  But don’t be deceived. Machine translation systems make all sorts of mistakes that a human translator could easily avoid. Still, it’s free. What’s the worst that could happen, you ask? If you choose to use Google Translate, don’t be surprised when it goes rogue and:


Insults Your Customers

Last January, online LGBT activist group All Out started an online petition against Google Translate. The problem? The service was suggesting a number of offensive slurs as synonyms for the word “gay.” According to All Out:

“500 million people use Google Translate every month. That’s a lot of people being taught hateful words and insults…Google already has the technology to filter out hateful language: typing “female” doesn’t throw up sexist words.”

It’s easy enough to understand how this could happen. Basically, people are jerks. The words they use to describe certain classes of people may not align with the words your business (or, you know, decent humans in general) wants to use. Google Translate basically guesses at word meanings by comparing documents and web pages in different languages. This causes translation errors that Google then has to manually fix, as they did with this particular bug. Read more

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