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Tamazight’s Inclusion in Google Translate Is a Huge Step for Representation

tech meets tradition

In its biggest expansion to date, this week, American tech giant Google has added over 100 new languages to its translation service. Some of the newly incorporated languages include Cantonese—a form of verbal communication predominantly used in China—Punjabi, which is native to the Punjab region of Pakistan and India, and Tamazight, which is spoken across several indigenous communities in North Africa.

With the help of AI technology, Google is honoring its 2022 pledge to “support the 1,000 most spoken languages around the world.” In a product update, Senior Software Engineer Isaac Caswell wrote that engineers used Google’s own machine learning model to integrate Tamazight. Written using a mix of Latin and Tifinagh scripts, he also explained that both are supported on Google Translate.

The update, celebrated by Tamazight learners and speakers, comes at a time when many are concerned about its preservation. Despite being an official language in Morocco and Algeria since 2011 and 2016 respectively, the language’s widespread integration and education efforts remain crucial. Its inclusion in Google Translate is anticipated to significantly strengthen its presence across digital space and promote its use both online and in real life.

Historically marginalized and underrepresented, the Amazigh community has fought tirelessly to preserve its language and traditions. Google’s recognition of Tamazight is a profound acknowledgement of their rich cultural heritage and linguistic identity, aiding in its preservation.

“Although there are many dialects (of Tamzight), the written form is generally mutually understandable,” Caswell wrote. “It’s written in Latin script and Tifinagh script, both of which Google Translate supports,” he added.

It has also been reported that these new inclusions will cater to the languages of over 600 million people.

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