Google Translate to the rescue

Screencap of Google Translate in action (speech recognition from English to Italian)

Screencap of Google Translate in action (speech recognition from English to Italian)

This spring, when my cousin asked me to quickly translate my uncle’s eulogy into Italian, I agreed without hesitation. Italian school every Saturday morning for twelve years should have made it easy for me to get the job done but when you don’t have the opportunity to practice a language, you can get a little rusty. With emotions running high and wanting to do a good job in a short period of time, I enlisted my brother-in-law’s assistance. He suggested we use the Google Translate app (available on Google Play and the iTunes App store). With my cousin’s English text in hand, I dictated the words into the mobile phone and the app instantaneously verbalized and displayed those same words back to me in Italian. At first, the translated text was not perfect. I had to start over several times because I had not articulated properly and some English expressions did not have Italian equivalents, but overall, the app did an exceptional job of capturing key pieces of text. Once we had the correct wording in hand, we then took the time to properly add or modify text where appropriate without feeling worried that we wouldn’t get the entire eulogy done in time. Google Translate saved us lots of time so we could focus our energy on making this hard time a little easier for my family members.

Since then, I have had the chance to play around with Google Translate a little more. Things to note:

  1. You can download language packs to work offline.
  2. Speech recognition, pronunciation guidance, and the option to have the device read translations aloud will not work if you don’t have access to the internet.
  3. The app is not perfect so a little experimentation goes a long way.

Mobile users can choose to do what I did and translate “speech to text” or users can also choose “text to text” or “text to speech” translation. Users working with text also have the option to choose between working with a keyboard or going “old school” (i.e. handwriting the words to be translated). Probably the coolest functionality of this app is that it can translate the text from your camera’s images into the language of your choice. This app could come in pretty handy in happier moments like when you are traveling and aren’t sure what the waiter is asking you or that street sign is trying to communicate.

Interesting stats from Google Translate:

“A collaboration between Google News Lab and Visual Cinnamon, called Beautiful in English, has analysed Google Translate data from 2012 to 2016. It collected all the single word translations of nouns and adjectives into English before assessing them to discover 10 of the most popular languages on Google. In the course of finding these languages, the collaboration discovered the most common words translated into English across the world – with surprisingly heartwarming results.” – from Translations from across the world prove we are united by goodness and beauty (Wired)

The similarities between the top 10 words※ per language (courtesy of the Beautiful in English Project)

The similarities between the top 10 words※ per language (courtesy of the Beautiful in English Project)

One comment on “Google Translate to the rescue

  1. I am so glad you wrote about this topic. I am a big user of google translate from the website. Learning about the app options is very interesting. Merci, תודה, Gracias شكرا, شکریہ!, ありがとうございました

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