The first time I went to Japan, I ended up ordering a cold ramen in the dead of winter from an ordering machine because one, all the images looked the same and two, I could not figure out what the Kanji symbols meant. It later presented a similar problem when I realised those same symbols appeared on the shower taps. Now, a Google Translate update has arrived, adding 60 new languages, to alleviate some of the stress of travelling to a country where your language skills, like mine, are a little sketchy.
The update, which first began rolling out earlier this month, allows users to open Google Translate and translate 88 languages into their desired language from an image. Before the feature was first introduced in 2015, you could type in or use your voice to translate text or audio but if you were attempting to translate languages that didn't use the Latin script, it was going to be a hard time.
The Google Lens has been out for nearly two years now but its impact was not quite as revolutionising as we'd all hoped. Apart from a few nifty tricks like trying to analyse what's in your camera, its lacklustre release has been, well... lacking. Thankfully, following a new update, Google Lens will introduce some fun, and more importantly, useful new features.
But thankfully, AI technology has improved greatly in four years and the app works in real-time Google's Neural Machine Translation (NMT), which is faster and more accurate than before. You'll also be able to download 25 of the new languages to use in situations where you'll most likely be offline, like in the middle of central Russia.
The offline translation, however, might not be as accurate but NMT offers impressive results miles ahead of any of the old school translating machines.
So, how do I use it?
You'll need to download and open the Google Translate app from the Apple or Google Play store. If you know what language the original text is in, choose that, otherwise select 'detect language' and then select the 'Camera' option. Here you'll be able to select an image you've already taken or translate a menu or ticket in real-time and voila, you've saved yourself from any potential embarrassment.
Now, just to remember to bring the phone with you the next time you need to use the hot or cold water tap.
If all you’ve ever done with Google Translate is copy-and-paste text, you’re missing out. The app can translate signs and menus visually, save your most-used phrases, and more.