Google Translate Mobile App Review


Browsing the apps on my iPhone, I stumbled across the Google Translate App and I am loving it!
Thank God, it is far from perfect (long live human translation! Translators are not obsolete… yet…) but great fun to play with!
With 2.3k users around the world and 103 languages you can translate between, this is an app likely to be popular!

Once you have selected the language combination you want to translate from and into, you can choose one of the four modes: camera, handwriting, conversation or voice:

Google Translate : the Camera Mode

Within the Camera mode, you have three options.

With option 1

You can get an instant translation by pressing “Instant”:

Though very handy, as you can see, this is definitely a machine, literal translation which does not correspond to the actual published translation. For example, “The international bestseller” in this context translates as “Le Best-seller international” and certainly not as “Le meilleur vendeur international”! and as you can see, the actual published French translation of the title is not “Le pouvoir de maintenant” mais “Le pouvoir du moment présent”.

With option 2

You can scan a document and select what needs to be translated:

Once the text is recognized, you can select all the text or highlight the parts that you want to translate using your finger as seen above. You then tap on the dark blue section in order to obtain the translation:

Once again, though the app allows to get the gist of what the text is about, the quality of the translation remains basic and does not account for context, flow and idioms.

With option 3

You can simply import a picture from your photo library.

With the Handwriting mode, you can write something on your phone which is first transcribed then translated. Which is absolutely terrific if your keyboard doesn’t use the letters or symbols that you want to translate. I will be honest; this is probably my favourite feature! I had such fun writing in Chinese and Gujarati!!

I did try and write Hello in Arabic, but my writing was never recognised! A great feature but you would have to be extremely precise with the characters (which is challenging when using a finger) and you also have to be very quick (which you won’t be if like me these languages are completely foreign!) as it does transcribe very fast.

Google translate : the Conversation mode

With this mode, you can record yourself or your interlocutor in either the one language or the other with an instant translation.

Finally, with the Voice mode, you can record either yourself if you need the written or audio translation for someone or you can record someone to hear or read the translation of what they are saying. Once recorded, the message is translated in writing and all you need is to click the audio symbol  to hear the translation (or play it to someone).

The Conversation mode : cool features

  • Offline translation (59 languages)
  • Instant camera translation (90 languages)
  • Take or import photos for higher quality translations (50 languages)
  • Translate bilingual conversations on the fly (43 languages)
  • Handwriting: Draw text characters instead of typing (95 languages)
  • Phrasebook: Star and save translated words and phrases for future reference (all languages)

To summarize, I think that although this is a fun app to play with and although it will give you a sense of the general meaning of your original text or conversation, these machine translations could not be used professionally and you would still need a good old human translator to obtain an accurate translation.
However, the app is very useful to get the gist of documents and help with communication, which is always a really handy option to have, especially when travelling either for business or pleasure!

This review is based on the use of the Google Translate App on a mobile phone (iPhone 8+) using Eckhart Tolle book “The Power of Now”.

Published by Estelle Demontrond-Box

Language Teacher, CIoL-certified Translator, Published Writer, I am from Besançon, France and now live in Sydney, Australia. Enseignante de langues (CAPES d'anglais), Traductrice certifiée (CIoL) et Auteure publiée, originaire de Besançon, je vis désormais à Sydney, Australie.

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