By: Jennifer Cole
Traveling to a new place can be an exhilarating experience. From the culture and cuisine to the foreign landscape and architecture, it’s no wonder people get swept away by the allures of adventure.
But, traveling and immersing oneself in a new place, with a new language, is easier said than done, and perhaps the biggest obstacle of going someplace foreign is communication. Between Bonjour, Hola, Merci and Prego, things can get quite confusing especially if you’re visiting different places in one trip. Coupled with flipping through the pages of a pocket dictionary or searching for phone service to help ease the language barrier, “Where’s the bathroom?” could turn into a 30-minute struggle!
In January, Google launched a revamped version of its Google Translate app. With no Internet connection necessary, users can point their smartphone’s camera to words in a different language, and the app will automatically translate them to the desired dialect. Currently, the photo feature translates into English from Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Russian and German.
However, users can also take a photo, highlight the unfamiliar blurb, and the app will do the dirty work in up to 36 different languages. Finally, the update boasts a conversation feature. After selecting the two desired languages to translate to and from, the app automatically detects which language is being spoken and conveniently translates the conversation for the user.
Ordering chicken and rice with spicy but not too spicy sauce, a side of fried plantains made extra crispy and the best in-house tap beer has never been easier! Well, maybe not that easy.
I decided to test the app out on my own to see what the hype was really about. I ventured to a few local places to use both the photo feature and highlight feature. Examining a menu at a Spanish restaurant, the app automatically recognized cerveza as “beer.” But, when I headed over to an Asian supermarket, I was a bit disappointed. Nearly all of the signs and labels I tried experimenting with didn’t give me any results. It was especially hard for the app to recognize hand-written signs, which is a necessity when traveling somewhere foreign. I had to make several attempts before I got the proper translation.
Though the program isn’t full-proof and has some flaws, it’s definitely a quicker and more cost-efficient tool to consider when traveling. Not only is the app free, but it also saves users from investing in expensive language books, in-person translators or cellular data packages.
Staying closer to home? You can still use the app to impress friends and family, and of course, to find out exactly what Frittura di Calamari means before your server returns.