App of the Week!

Google has announced that it’s translate app can now be used as an interpreter, with the addition of a real-time voice-translation mode.

The app is said to be able to automatically recognise languages being spoke and translate them for you. Wednesday the 14th of January update also allows users to instantly translate messages using their phone camera, with the use of the Word Lens Feature, which works without a wi-fi or data connection.

However, an academic said it would fail to understand and interpret the more difficult linguistic tools. It will be very useful for basic translations, for example, road signs around a foreign city, however, it will not pick up cultural references, nuances or humour.

Before the latest update, the app translated spoken or typed phrases one sentence at a time, where the pronunciation and rhythm of the translation was occasionally problematic.

Google said: “The Translate app already lets you use camera mode to snap a photo of text and get a translation in 36 languages. Now, we’re taking it to the next level and letting you instantly translate text using your camera. While using the Translate app, just point your camera at a sign or text and you’ll see the translated text overlaid on your screen – even if you don’t have an internet or data connection.”

This feature was available for English to and from: French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish

Google have also said “users can now tap the mic to get into voice translation mode, tap the mic again, and the Google Translate app will automatically recognise which of the two languages are being spoken, letting you have a more fluid conversation. The update takes people one step closer to turning their smartphone into a universal translator and to a world where language is no longer a barrier.”


Ms Bogain, Lecturer at the University of Northumbria, believes that for holidaymakers who struggle with language barriers the app will be very useful. However, she does not expect it to be used at an EU summit any time soon. The translations convey a rough message but a lot will be ‘lost in translation’. Online tools are not yet picking up on different meanings of a single word, it is simple to see which of our students have used a translation tool when handing in work, something will always be lost.

Adapted from BBC News

Have you used the app yet? Has it worked for you?