Google Translate - Breaking Down Babel
Written by Mike James   
Monday, 19 January 2015

The latest version of Google Translate takes us a step further into a world where we'll be able to communicate without language barriers. This is a disruptive change that is happening without us really taking notice. 




Have you ever ended up with a plate of squid in its own ink when what you wanted was sausages (or vice versa). Reading a menu in a language you don't speak can be difficult because words that look and sound like something familiar in your native language often mean something quite different. 

If this is a situation you remember you'll be pleased to know that your iOS or Android phone is now capable of ordering for you: 



In the above video the intrepid traveller talks for herself, but in the latest release of the Google Translate App  you can rely on your smartphone to do the talking for you, which is expected to speed up the process of a multi-lingual conversation as both parties can speak in their native languages, English on one side and a choice of  French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish on the other with no need for typing.

Here's the latest demo:



The new release also has an improved ability to read street signs, restaurant menus - or any other text that you care to read using your smartphone camera - and you no longer need an Internet connection for the languages listed above - with more to follow soon.





Microsoft/Skype and Google Translate are in an arms race to make translation easy and accessible. At first things won't work well enough to break down language barriers' but given time the restrictions on one group of people talking to another will become less and less.

What does this mean for the future? We have been used to a world where language served not just as a medium of communication but as a large part of a cultural and social identity.

We nearly always assume that if a universal translator ever did come into existence than it would be a good thing, but consider this - given the rate of progress would you recommend a that a child learn a foreign language?  What is the point in struggling for five years or longer to master, say, Chinese when by that time you will be able to rely on a device to do the job for you?

Something really is lost in automatic translation - but exactly what is difficult to say. 

More Information

Hallo, hola, olá to the new, more powerful Google Translate app

Related Articles

Skype Translator Cracks Language Barrier 

Is universal translation just around the corner? 

Inside Google Translate


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Last Updated ( Monday, 19 January 2015 )