instagram, translation feature

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Next month, in-app translation is coming to Instagram. The translation feature which is automatic, and based on your language settings, would translate comments, captions or descriptions posted beside pictures. A translation of the bio of the users would also be done automatically.

instagram, translation feature
Instagram Logo

This is very useful on so many levels. Here is the thing about Instagram that makes it so popular: unlike Facebook, you don’t have to be accepted by someone before you can view their photos or videos on Instagram. Just sign up and at once you can view millions of photos and videos being posted by users of Instagram around the world.

Around the world‘ is where the idea of a language feature is long over-due I think. Granted that most of the world can speak, write and read in English. But the fact is, millions around the world don’t use English as a primary or secondary language. These people are also active on Instagram. So the challenge for a users in a location like Nigeria, is to understand the comments or captions accompanying pictures in languages other than English. An innocuous picture of a scene in Norway could be posted with a long caption in the Norwegian language. For an English speaker, the translation tool becomes important as one can now understand what the picture is all about.

Instagram, Translation feature
Instagram app

The same situation too applies to comments written in a different language. With a transaction feature, one can easily follow the conversation to get a different perspective or understanding of what the initial post was all about. Why hasn’t somebody thought of this before? After all the feature has being on Facebook for a while now. And instagram is owned by Facebook. Still, better late than never I guess.

The news of the coming translation feature was posted as a regular status update on Instagram:

In the coming month, you’ll see a translation button on feed stories and profile bios written in languages different from your own. The Instagram community has grown faster and become more global than we ever imagined. And we’re excited that you’ll soon be able to understand the full story of a moment, no matter what language you speak.
To learn more about translation on Instagram, check out

instagram, translation feature
Instagram Translation

As at the time of writing this report, the post has attracted over five thousand comments. Though many of the comments had little to do with the upcoming feature. The comments section has almost turned into an unofficial petition page for Instagram to restore the chronological timeline. The issue of algorithm vs chronological timeline is not going away in a hurry it seems. For most users of social networks like Facebook and Twitter that have already switched to algorithms feeds, the main issue is, how could these social forums presume to know what people want to read or see at anytime. Or to put it another, how would they know what millions (or one and a half billion in the case of Facebook) consider very important?

Instagram, translation feature
Facebook algorithm

My personal experience with algorithms on Facebook has being one of frustration really. I keep seeing the same posts over and over again. It doesn’t matter how old those posts are. Facebook algorithm has already the things I want to see. The result is, I hardly see what many other friends are posting on Facebook. To see them I need to actually spend hours on Facebook or go to the web version on my laptop and change the settings to show me the latest posts first. And that is only temporary as the system reverts back to algorithms once you log out.

Back to the Instagram update: a look at the translation section of the help page gives the impression the whole thing is very easy. There are just three issues addressed there. Maybe when the feature finally rolls out, more help questions would be tackled on the help page based on users’ experiences. I am sure there are many who can’t wait to test the language feature next month.

For now nobody knows the number of languages that would be supported by the feature. Already though, Instagram has support for almost two dozen languages. Considering the number languages around the world, it’s safe to say the Instagram team have a long way to go to cover the world’s languages.


photo credit;; Instagram;;