Since the start of email, users with names that include accents on letters or that include characters in foreign languages have not been able to use them for messages. Google’s Gmail service is now changing that.
Gmail can now recognize email addresses that include characters with accents on a letter as well as characters in foreign languages. Both developments make for the first time that Gmail can deal with non-Latin characters in email addresses, according to the company.
The new Gmail addressing capabilities were unveiled recently by Pedro Chaparro Monferrer, a Google software engineer, in a post on the Official Gmail Blog.
“Whether your email address is firstname.lastname@ or something more expressive like corgicrazy@, an email address says something about who you are,” wrote Monferrer. “But from the start, email addresses have always required you to use non-accented Latin characters when signing up.”
The problem with that, he wrote, is that “less than half of the world’s population has a mother tongue that uses the Latin alphabet. And even fewer people use only the letters A-Z. So if your name (or that of your favorite pet) contains accented characters (like “José Ramón”) or is written in another script like Chinese or Devanagari, your email address options are limited.”
Change, however, could be coming on a global scale, wrote Monferrer. “In 2012, an organization called the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) created a new email standard that supports addresses with non-Latin and accented Latin characters. In order for this standard to become a reality, every email provider and every Website that asks you for your email address must adopt it. That’s obviously a tough hill to climb. The technology is there, but someone has to take the first step.”
In the meantime, Google’s Gmail service is adopting this capability now, he wrote. “Today we’re ready to be that someone. Starting now, Gmail (and shortly, Calendar) will recognize addresses that contain accented or non-Latin characters. This means Gmail users can send emails to, and receive emails from, people who have these characters in their email addresses.”
Future accommodations will be made for other Google services on a case by case basis, he wrote. “Of course, this is just a first step and there’s still a ways to go. In the future, we want to make it possible for you to use them to create Gmail accounts.”
Google is often busy adding new language capabilities to its many services for users.
In July, Google added translation support for 13 additional languages for Gmail users. This brings the total number of languages supported to 71. The added languages were Afrikaans, Armenian, Azerbaijani (Azeri), Chinese (Hong Kong), French (Canada), Galician, Georgian, Khmer, Lao, Mongolian, Nepali, Sinhala and Zulu. Some of the new languages now supported by Gmail had already been rolled out previously as part of other Google services, including Google Search, Maps, Drive, Docs and YouTube, according to Google.
Gmail users employing the email service on the Web or through smartphone browsers can access the additional languages by adjusting their Gmail account settings. Differences in regional and local use of words will show up in Gmail, such as the new Chinese (Hong Kong) character for “inbox,” which is different from the word used in Taiwan. Similar differences appear for several languages spoken in India, where Nepali, Marathi, and Hindi are three of the many languages in use. All of these languages use Devanagari characters, but again there are different regionalizations and spellings for words such as “inbox.”
Gmail Recognizes Email Address With Accented or Foreign Characters
In December 2013, Google added nine more languages—including five in Africa—to its offerings, raising its support to translations for 80 languages.
The additional African languages were Hausa, which is spoken in Nigeria and neighboring countries with 35 million native speakers; Igbo, which is spoken in Nigeria with 25 million native speakers; Yoruba, which is spoken in Nigeria and neighboring countries with 28 million native speakers; Somali, which is spoken in Somalia and other countries around the Horn of Africa with 17 million native speakers; and Zulu, which is spoken in South Africa and other southwestern African countries with 10 million native speakers.
Translate also added language support for Mongolian, which is the official language in Mongolia and is also spoken in parts of China by 6 million native speakers; Nepali, which is spoken in Nepal and India by 17 million native speakers; and Punjabi, which is spoken in India and Pakistan by 100 million native speakers. Also added was support for Maori, which is spoken in New Zealand by 160,000 native speakers.
In November 2013, Google made its Google Translate language translation app for Android faster and expanded its coverage to several additional foreign languages, including Malay and Ukranian.
The Translate app, which was introduced in 2010, allows users to speak into an Android device to get a translation into another language, or to use a built-in handwriting feature to get translations. Those capabilities are useful for travelers when they are in places where non-native languages are spoken. The latest version of Google Translate includes more language support for the built-in handwriting feature, which now gives users the ability to directly write words in Hebrew, Javanese and Esperanto on their devices so they can be translated on the fly. Users can also use the camera translation feature to take a photo of written text with an Android device and then highlight the words they’d like to be translated.