i wrote a couple years ago about how invaluable the Google Translate app (Android and iOS) has been on my travels. that’s most definitely still the case, but i read this morning that the instant translation feature has expanded to support nearly 4 times as many languages as before (i’ve bolded the new ones):
English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Bulgarian, Catalan, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Filipino, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Polish, Romanian, Slovak, Swedish, Turkish and Ukrainian
there are also one-way instant translations from English to Hindi and Thai (whereas the others go two-way so you can translate from, say, Finnish back to English).
of course, it doesn’t work perfectly; in my experience the instant translation is much more crude than the normal text input because it doesn’t do much linguistic processing so in many cases it’s just a word-for-word translation that doesn’t take into account syntax — basically whatever you’d get from a dictionary.
as you can see, it also clearly has trouble reading certain typefaces (seriously though, who doesn’t have problems with italic cyrillic?!) and if you look at any of their demos, they are all large text in a very legible typeface.
it’s important to note that this works even without a data connection, so perfect for cases where you don’t have wifi/local SIM/roaming — although Google notes that if you do have data, you can use image-based translation where they will actually process an image taken with the camera (“camera mode”) in the cloud (37 languages!), and they’ve improved their voice conversation mode (where it will translate as you speak) to better support lower-quality connections (and 32 languages!). i should note that normal typed text translation (which results in a better quality translation) does require data, so if you are data-less, instant translation is your only hope.
in any case, instant translation an easy first step for trying to understand printed matter, but where the app really shines is its main feature, translating typed text. again, so handy. i’m sure it’s not perfect, but it works!
my latest success story is helping me get a wrap for my sprained ankle in Kazakhstan:
Thank you google translate! pic.twitter.com/Tv0N27qNnI
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) June 29, 2015