Thank You My Dear Friend Google Translate

i’ve written before about how handy a local SIM is for making sure you have access to maps and other resources while traveling, but a tool that i use time and again, i’ve realized, is Google Translate.

i went to a pharmacy today in search of an anti-itch cream because i’ve been eaten alive by mosquitoes (thanks to an open window and St. Petersburg’s bug problem, even though it’s very fall weather outside). the pharmacist didn’t speak English (i didn’t have any expectations that she would) so i whipped out my phone:

she took a quick glance at the screen and got me a tube of Fenistil, an anti-itch gel — which, while expensive, works like a charm.

thinking back, it’s definitely not the first time i used Google Translate to help communicate and as a dictionary:

trying to buy detergent in Kiev:

in Bangkok when our train stopped for no reason:

deciphering pastries in Budapest:

making sense of a menu in Riga:

of course, Google Translate is great when you’re at your computer as well while researching and planning, but given the alternatives (pantomiming, guessing, getting misunderstood [not that this is perfect, but better than nothing]), having this tool in your pocket can’t be beat. just keep in mind it’s not always perfect…

update! they just released a new version that lets you draw to input text (like their web version). while great for non-alphabet languages, it’s also handy if you don’t want to deal with the frustration of hunting and pecking on a foreign keyboard layout. plus in my (limited) experience it seems to be quite forgiving, so you don’t have to make the letters exact (i mean just look at my ш).

(p.s. маршруты means “route” or “itinerary” — as in marshrutka [just made the connection now])

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