I just spent several months backpacking around Europe, and along the way I downloaded a handful of great apps to help assist me throughout my travels. One of the first apps I downloaded was Google Translate. I knew it would be imperative to have a translator app on me at all times, since I would be encountering six different languages (Hungarian, Czech, Italian, French, Dutch, and Slovak). What I didn’t realize was just how many amazing features a translator app could have. Google Translate turned out to be one of the most utilized apps on my trip. To see why, let’s take a look at a few of the amazing features of this app:
Number of Languages – At the time of this publication, the Google Translate app supports 103 languages through typing, 29 languages through instant camera translation, 37 languages through picture mode, 32 languages in conversation mode, 93 languages in handwriting mode, and includes 52 languages available for download and offline use.
Languages Available Offline – For the majority of my trip I did not have a sim card or any kind of data plan for my phone, so I utilized the download languages for use offline feature in nearly every country. When I had Wifi available to me, I would download the language just prior to heading off to the next country.
Phrasebook – After getting the hang of using the app, I began to build up my phrasebook, which I found to be quite handy. Upon arriving in a new country, I would take a few minutes and translate a handful of basic words which I would then click on the star button to save out to my phrase book. This way if I suddenly needed to communicate something basic, I could quickly pull out my phone and try to pronounce the word or just show it to the person with whom I’m trying to communicate without wasting a lot of time. This worked well a few times, especially once in a grocery store in France where I was holding up a very long line.
Instant Camera Translation – This is my absolute FAVORITE feature of this app. It doesn’t work perfectly all of the time, but when it does, it is stunning. I’ve used it to figure out where I’m going by translating street signs, and to make sure I don’t order anything crazy off of a foreign menu.
Camera Mode – For several weeks I was unaware that I could take a picture and then run it through the translator. I was so mesmerized by the instant camera translation feature that this was an afterthought. But it turns out Google Translate can handle nine additional languages when you take a still image as compared to the instant camera translation.
Conversation Mode – I played around with this feature, but never actually used it for a real world translation. This is the feature you want to use clandestinely to see if those French folks are saying bad things about you…
SMS Translation – Again, this was a feature I had no idea existed until I suddenly found myself using it. After installing a sim card in Italy, I suddenly began to receive text messages with directions on how to activate the sim card. The only problem was the fact that all of the directions were in Italian. Google Translate to the rescue! While reading the first text, I noticed the Google Translate icon appear in the top right. I clicked the icon and voilà, messages translated.
Several weeks into my backpacking trip I arrived at a friend’s house in Switzerland. “Just to let you know, my mom doesn’t speak any English” my friend warned. The next morning I found myself alone in the kitchen when the mom strolled in, and it was just the two of us. And my friend wasn’t kidding; her mom couldn’t speak English. After a few minutes of failed attempts at communication, the mom pulled out her iPad and began typing. She handed the iPad over to me and there was my old friend, Google Translate. We spent the next half hour chatting via Google Translate, handing the iPad back and forth to each other.
I love technology.
What do you think of Google Translate? Have you used it before? What are your favorite travel apps?