When I’m not boring WorldStart readers with occasionally uninformed software advice, I work at a hardware store in a small Midwestern town, boring customers with occasionally uninformed hardware advice. While our town doesn’t provide the level of diversity found in large urban centers, for several of our customers, English is a second language, and a few speak no English at all. Consequently, as someone barely fluent in English, and only able to converse in what little Spanish I gleaned in my Mesozoic era high school (most long since forgotten), I welcomed the Google Translate app, which translates text between more than 60 languages, and offers spoken word translations for many of them.
For a text translation, type a word or phrase into the field or, for a spoken translation, tap the microphone button (when spoken translation is available, it’s found below the text field) and speak clearly into the device. The spoken word translation is particularly handy for languages using characters not available on an English keyboard.
In the first test, I asked the most important question I could imagine, and translated it into Spanish (tap the arrow to the right of the text field for the translation).
Press the speaker button to play back a spoken translation.
Languages are found in the drop down menus. To reverse the translation, just tap the double arrow in the center.
Every translation is saved in History (tap the arrow shown below).
There are 3 buttons at the top right of the History screen. Sort, organizes alphabetically or by time of entry.
Tapping Filter brings up the keyboard, where words entered in translations from the list are filtered in, to narrow search focus.
The button at the far right offers the options displayed below. As it is in many email clients, important items can be starred, and filtered accordingly (tap the star to the left of a selection, to add it to the starred list).
Press and hold a translation stored in History to display it or remove it from the list. To change languages for a stored translation, simply select new languages from either language menu.
Tap the menu arrow to return to Translate. To view only the starred items mentioned above, tap Favorites.
Text can also be entered by writing it on a touch screen. Tap the handwriting button shown below the text field.
Unfortunately–if it had really mattered–by the time my clumsy fingers finally accomplished the written translation attempted below, it probably would have been too late.
Due to the unique grammatical nuances of different languages, many translations will be clumsy, with some probably incomprehensible but, with a little patience, a mobile translator can still be an indispensable addition to an Android or iPhone toolbox (click or tap here for Android and here for iPhone)
Google Translate also offers a version for computer browsers (read more here).