Google Translate is a fantastic mobile translation tool that can help you read or communicate in up to 90 languages. The app goes beyond a simple phrase book with an SMS translator, text-recognition features and even audio recordings of translated words and sentences. It's a great travel tool for when you venture somewhere you don't speak the language, especially now that more features are available offline.
Pick your languages
Before you start translating, first tell Google which languages you need translated, French to English for instance. The app supports 90 languages including Spanish, French, Russian, Korean, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew and Hindi, so there's a good chance you can find what you need.
Then you can type in a word or phrase and the app will give you the translation, showing it on the screen below what you entered. You can tap the speaker icon to hear the translation, copy it and save it to a digital phrasebook that you can sync across multiple devices.
In the Android app, you can also choose to handwrite a word or phrase on your touchscreen, and the app can detect the language you're using and translate it. You don't get much space on the screen to sketch out your words, but once you finish one word, you can tap the spacebar to move on to another blank area to finish your phrase. When you're done, you can read the finished translation and hear it spoken.
In a recent update, Google added a killer new feature to Translate called Conversation mode. It lets you have a free-flowing back-and-forth conversation in which two or more people can speak naturally and the app continues to listen and translate. You don't even need to tap the screen to keep speaking because the app will recognize someone talking, translate the phrase, speak it out loud and then go back to listening for the next translation. It's almost like having a human translator standing right there with you.
The app detects the language being spoken and translates it into your chosen language. Before you start talking, you select two languages you want to translate between in the app. Then tap the microphone to begin a conversation. Speak a phrase in either of the selected languages and the app will pick up what you're saying and translate it.
Conversation mode feels natural in a real-life conversation, but it does have its drawbacks. Occasionally the app either won't listen for both languages or will start listening too soon and pick up words it shouldn't. Also, the translations are very literal, so colloquial phrases and slang rarely translate correctly.