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Google Maps enhances support for ten Indian languages

Google has built an ensemble of learned models to transliterate names of Latin script POIs into 10 languages prominent in India. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/MintPremium
Google has built an ensemble of learned models to transliterate names of Latin script POIs into 10 languages prominent in India. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

Google claims that it is dealing with the mixed-language issue which requires a transliteration system that maps characters from one script to another while accounting for the phonetic properties of the words as well

Google Maps has introduced a way in which the company can help non-English speakers in India to use the application with greater ease. Maps will now be able to ‘transliterate’ names into native language with more ease.

Since names of most Indian places of interest (POIs) in Google Maps are not generally available in the native scripts of the languages of India. These names are often in English and in some cases are combined with acronyms based on the Latin script, as well as Indian language words and names. Google claims that it is dealing with this mixed-language issue which requires a transliteration system that maps characters from one script to another while accounting for the phonetic properties of the words as well.

The official blog of the company explained the new upgrade with an example. Consider a user in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, who is looking for a nearby hospital, KD Hospital. They issue the search query, કેડી હોસ્પિટલ, in the native script of Gujarati, the 6th most widely spoken language in India. Here, કેડી (“kay-dee") is sounding out of the acronym KD, and હોસ્પિટલ is “hospital". In this search, Google Maps knows to look for hospitals, but it doesn't understand that કેડી is KD, hence it finds another hospital, CIMS. As a consequence of the relative sparsity of names available in the Gujarati script for places of interest (POIs) in India, instead of their desired result, the user is shown a result that is further away.

To address this challenge, Google has built an ensemble of learned models to transliterate names of Latin script POIs into 10 languages prominent in India: Hindi, Bangla, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, and Odia. Using this ensemble, they have added names in these languages to millions of POIs in India, increasing the coverage nearly twenty-fold in some languages. The company claims that this will immediately benefit millions of existing Indian users who don't speak English.

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