Google adds 12 Russian minority languages to its translation service

Google has added 12 minority languages from Russia to its Google Translate app as part of an update released on Thursday that sees a total of 110 new languages added to the service.

The 12 new languages spoken in Russia added to the service include Avar, Bashkir, Chechen, Chuvash, Ossetian, Udmurt and Yakut. The update also features Crimean Tatar, a language spoken by minority groups in Crimea, which is distinct from Tatar, Russia’s second most spoken language, which was added to Google Translate in 2020.

An AI language model helped Google roll out its “largest expansion ever”, the company said in a statement, adding that it remained committed to its plan to support the 1,000 most spoken languages around the world.

Minority languages in Russia remain under threat in the face of the country’s growing Russification. According to statistics from the Institute of Linguistics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, 155 languages are currently spoken in Russia, of which only slightly more than half are taught in schools — a situation that has further deteriorated following Vladimir Putin’s 2017 instruction that schools abolish the compulsory learning of minority languages.

Despite languages spoken in Russian ethnic republics, such as Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, and the Komi Republic, being recognised as official languages within those republics, Russian is the sole language of official communication at the federal level.

When an activist from the republic of Komi in the Russian Arctic declined to speak Russian in court in 2021 and requested a translator, the judge ridiculed his request as something belonging to a “circus”.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has reignited language activism in Russia, with artists increasingly creating anti-war artworks and protest statements in indigenous languages.

Editor in chief — Kirill Martynov. Terms of use. Privacy policy.