Google's Must-Have Travel App for Language Translation

Inspiration Travel



Almost everyone who has traveled outside the United States knows that the blessings and joys of travel far outweigh its challenges. One of the biggest potential headaches can be the language barriers that occur when traveling to non English-speaking countries. Short of learning a foreign language, the next best thing for travelers—new technology—is already improving international communication.

Since its release in 2011, the Google Translate app has offered type-it-yourself dictionary translation services between a hundred or so languages. But a 2016 update of the app has taken this powerful translation ability to a new level.

Today, using the app’s “Word Lens” feature—which is available on both iPhone and Android platforms—a user can access their phone’s camera from within the app. Pointing the camera at a sign or phrase in another language, they will see a real-time translation of the words into English. The translated sign even matches the actual sign in font, color and general appearance. It looks just like the original, only written in English!

The seamless process seems like magic, but is really a complicated technology that relies upon augmented reality to change what’s being viewed through the phone’s camera.

Imagine how this changes traveling:

  • You duck into a restaurant in Jerusalem and want to understand a menu written in Hebrew. Using Google Translate, you can point your phone at the menu item and see the word rendered in English. You order the best hummus you’ve ever had.
  • Walking through Rome on the way to Trevi Fountain, you see a yellow road sign, written in Italian. You point your phone at it and immediately understand that “deviazione” means “detour.” Following the footpath, you find your way to the famous landmark.

Best of all, use of the instant camera translation doesn’t require wifi connectivity or international data usage. Using the app’s “Offline Mode,” users can download one of 50-plus language packs prior to leaving for a trip. Once these have downloaded onto a device, the translation work occurs offline. This keeps travelers from having to sign up for an expensive international data plan.

Google Translate supports translations between languages including English, Chinese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and more. It’s absolutely free—and it’s about to become your new favorite travel app.

Have you used Google Translate? Please share your tips, thoughts and questions below!