Saturday, July 06, 2013

How to get Google Alerts in more than one language

There is a Google tool called Google Alerts, which periodically looks for new information based on a query and sends it to you. Until recently I had it all sent on an RSS feed, but Google discontinued that option together with Google Reader (I know, boo!), so now I send it to an email address. Anyway, this article is about news in other languages than the one you select as default. I noticed today that one of the alerts, which contained German words, never returned any news in German, apparently all Google Alerts will show me will be English results. So I looked (on Google, of course) for ways to make the alerts multi language. The short answer is that they were never meant to be so and thus this is a sort of a hack, until they do something about it. Here is how you do it:
  1. Go to google.[your language], for example, for Romanian
  2. Search something there and ignore messages telling you to switch language or translate anything
  3. Go to http://google.[your language]/alerts/manage - note that this will not work over https, like the search. It will return a 404 page if your URL starts with https instead of http
  4. Add your alert (the language of the Alerts page should be the one that you have chosen)
  5. Test that it worked by exporting your alerts and checking the Language column for your alert in the resulting file
  6. Go to step 1 to add another alert in another language

So, in order to make an alert in multiple languages, you must add an alert for each language with the exact query. Well, since they are different languages, probably the query will be different as well, but if you are searching for a name, for example, it will always be the same.
This may work by starting the third step directly. It worked for me, but somebody on a forum said that you should not do that, probably something having to do with Google trying to guess what language should be applied from your location, account information, URL etc.
Also, there are some weird languages that may appear in the alerts file. For example the Italian language is "it-IT", the German is "de-DE", but the Romanian is "en-RO". Now I know a lot of Romanians that use half their words from English in a conversation, but that's not what Google had in mind, I think.