The latest version of the Google Translate app helps you to converse smoothly with someone speaking another language and translates signs, posters and restaurant menus for you when you’re abroad.
By Guillaume Renouard February 10, 2015
The latest Google Translate app update includes two innovations which should make your stay abroad considerably easier or help you communicate with people with whom you do not share a common language.
The first innovation is a substantial upgrade to the app’s ‘conversation mode’, functionality which helps you talk in real time with a person speaking another language. Previous versions have been available on Android for a couple of years, and now you can access it on iOS as well. First of all, the app is designed to recognise the languages being spoken. You just put the phone’s microphone close to your mouth and formulate your question. A robot voice then transposes it instantaneously into the language you have preselected. As the conversation between the two speakers goes ahead, your phone will understand which speaker is speaking when and the app will translate the two sides of the exchange to and from the relevant languages in real time. This automatic speaker-detection functionality is a new feature of the latest version; previously you had to click each time to change the direction of the translation. Google is thus promising you more fluent conversations.
The second innovation makes use of functionality from the World Lens app, developed by Quest Visual, a company which Google acquired last year. This mobile app allows you to translate a written text in real time. All you have to do is press the ‘Camera’ icon on your phone and point the lens at a restaurant menu, a sign, or any other writing in one of the available foreign languages. The translated text is then overlaid on your screen in your chosen language. And there’s no need for an Internet or data connection. However, there is still room for improvement, as currently the app will only translate in and out of English and there are only six second languages available. A further possible drawback is that the app cannot cope with translating hand-written text.