Thursday, April 11, 2013

Google Translate - Micro-languages and Faroese

The auto-detect feature of Google Translate identifies Faroese as Icelandic. That's understandable, as Faroese and Icelandic share unique characters and are similar in syntax and vocabulary. The Icelandic translator is nonetheless ill-equipped for Faroese. It gets some words right, ignores others, and wildly misconstrues meanings of sentences and phrases. Oddly, every time I put a text in now it invariably spits out a variant of "one can achieve perfection" (as evidenced on my earlier blog).

Google Translate covers 65 languages with several betas in progress. In descending order, here are the bottom five languages by smallest number of speakers - Welsh (700,000), Maltese (400,000), Icelandic (320,000), Irish (130,000), and Esperanto (10,000). The last is an artificial language. I'll blog about that later, but I am of the opinion that an artificial language is no language at all as it lacks the depth and idiom of natural language. So I'm not counting it. The pattern of the above: European languages spoken in interesting places, all of them islands. Faroese (60,000) deserves a place on the list.


  1. I couldn't agree more… I speak Faroese and it makes me sick that it only works for Danish for us, which means we're writing Danish rather than our mother-tongue. And I think it's higher than 60,000 speakers as you mention, I know there are 50.000 in the Faroe Islands and another 20.000 in Denmark. Anyways, Faroese should Definitely be added by Google!!

  2. I may not visit Paris soon, but I might go to Canada, and I wouldn’t want to be frantically flipping through a translation guide when nature calls and I am in Quebec. Of course, there are many English speaking there as well please visit. but you never know where you may be when you get that “call.”


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