'F*** you', exclaims Google Translate app, politely

'Eff, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk,' it mutters as Reg hack speaks

Babel Fish

It’s a small, yellow, earwig-like creature* that feeds on … no, wait, it’s Google’s new real-time language translation app.

Although sadly not an actual Babel fish, the Chocolate Factory’s latest upgrade to its Google Translate app does mean you can “instantly understand anything said to you in any form of language”.

From Wednesday, Android and iOS users will be able to use their smartphone to live translate conversations in a much faster, more “organic” way.

According to Barak Turovsky, product lead on Google Translate: “When talking with someone in an unfamiliar language, conversations can... get... realllllllly... sloowwww. While we’ve had real-time conversation mode on Android since 2013, our new update makes the conversation flow faster and more naturally.”

The new upgrade means the app will automatically recognise which language is being spoken, so your El Reg correspondent decided to get creative. After failing to catch it out with more obscure Belgian French terms, we tried “balderdash”, “poppycock” and “claptrap”, all of which Google handled admirably, although it drew the line at “piffle”.

However, try swearing into your phone (we did) and the extremely polite Google translate lady will utter: “eff, asterisk, asterisk, asterisk”, which doesn’t quite deliver the same punch.

According to Google, more than 500 million people use Translate every month. Speech mode works in 36 languages. ®

* The Babel fish – the "oddest thing" in Douglas Adams' universe – provided translations as a byproduct of its telepathic "excret[ions]" which occurred after it fed on its host's brain wave energy (Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy).

Don't worry, AltaVista/Yahoo!, El Reg remembers you had a Babel Fish first, but the now-defunct precursor to Bing Translator did not provide real-time translation.

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