Thanks to a recent update to the Google Translate app, the ability to travel, live, and do business abroad has never been easier. The recent additions and improvements to the app make conversing in and navigating around a foreign country as simple as aiming a smartphone camera or speaking into a microphone.
Translate Text, in Real Time, Without an Internet Connection
The most notable new enhancement to Google Translate is the Word Lens feature, which was developed as its own app in 2010 by a company called Quest Visual. This app allowed users to merely hold their phone up to a sign or printed text and have it translated immediately. As such, it was no wonder that Google wanted to own it.
Now a part of Google Translate, this feature currently translates text from French, German, Italian, Portugese, Russian, and Spanish into English, and vice versa. Google indicates it plans to support even more languages in the future. For those that aren’t already offered, users can use Camera Mode, which allows them to take a photo, highlight the text, and obtain a translation. This feature is available in 36 languages.
One of the biggest perks to the new Word Lens feature is that it works even without an Internet or data connection. This allows travelers to translate on the go without having to pay an exorbitant amount of money for an international data plan.
Conversations Flow Seamlessly
The second most notable feature of the new Google Translate is its ability to detect which language is being spoken when used in its speech or conversation mode. Historically, the app required users to manually select the language for translation before each new phrase was spoken. With the newest release, the need only indicate the two languages at the initial setup. The app does the work after that, allowing conversations to flow much more naturally.
As a North American expat living in the Latin tropics, I’m often asked for advice on breaking down the language barrier when traveling or relocating abroad. With these new features and improvements, the Google Translate app is a resource I recommend to help ease that transition.
Still a Few Bugs to Work Out
That being said, the app certainly isn’t without its flaws. The Word Lens app struggles with translating handwriting or particularly intricate text or fonts. As a result, it occasionally makes mistakes. Likewise, the conversation mode will sometimes come up with something totally wonky that scarcely resembles the actual words spoken. All in all, though, it’s usually pretty accurate and does a great job of getting the point across.
The app is free to download from the App Store, and it’s available for both iPhone and iPad and on the Google Play Store for Android users.