Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/04/26/app_of_the_week/
Make yourself understood to Johnny Foreigner
Android App of the Week Google’s increasingly powerful translation tools are starting to make the Babel Fish a technical possibility and Communicate is the latest app to make use of them to offer real-time speech translation.
Languages choices and phrases for that longed-for escape
Using Communicate couldn’t be easier. Simply select your own language and the language you want to translate into, tap the microphone icon and speak. Not only does the screen display what you have said along with the translation but the translation is also read out.
Where Communicate takes things a step further is with its conversation mode. With this you get two microphone icons that will let you hold a real-time conversation, you just tap the relevant icon for translation one-way then the other icon for the reverse.
Again, each phrase is spelled out so both parties can check that what the app is saying is in fact correct and it’s not rendering “Can you tell me how to get the library?” as “Oh, oh, my nipples explode with delight!”.
My hovercraft is full of eels
To give the app a real-world test I sat down with an Italian friend and tried having a conversation with my phone on the table between us. We each tapped our respective microphone icon, said our piece and waited for the app to read out the translation.
Sort out those transport problems
It proved remarkably accurate as long as we both spoke clearly, didn’t run words together and kept our sentences to a reasonable length.
Sadly the app doesn’t support Hungarian at the moment, only English (UK and US), Spanish (Mexican and Spanish), French, German and Italian but with Google’s own Translate app now supporting 60 languages and many of those with text-to-speech expect that list is sure to get longer fast.
Of course, the downside with Google’s back office workings is the need for an active internet connection, so using it overseas and away from a Wi-Fi hotspot does run the risk of racking up roaming charges, but that may well be a small price to pay to achieve some clarity and make yourself capito. ®
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