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With its latest update to Google Translate, Google is making it easier to communicate when we’re in a foreign country and struggling to speak the language. And thanks to the genius of its neural machine translation, you no longer even need to be online.
While it’s always a good idea to learn a few key words and phrases before travelling to another country, when you’re in a bind, Google Translate is a solid alternative. And now, as long as you have adequately prepared beforehand, you can do everything offline.
Machine Learning for Languages
Google introduced neural machine translation (NMT) a couple of years ago. However, it was previously only available when using Google Translate online. Now, the technology will work directly on your device, meaning you can use it offline.
Google Translate previously used PBMT, or phrase-based machine translation. This translated sentences one word at a time, which was far from perfect. NMT analyzes whole sentences in one go, using context to make more accurate translations.
Google’s new trick is enabling its NMT technology to work offline. All you need to do is download a language set beforehand. According to The Keyword, these only weigh in at 35-45 MB each, so even low-end smartphones with little storage can handle them.
Offline translations are available for 59 languages. If you have used offline translations before a banner should pop up for you to update your files. Otherwise, go to the offline settings, and tap the arrow next to the language you want to download.
Helping You Get By When Abroad
Even using its neural machine translation technology, Google Translate still makes mistakes. However, NMT is certainly more accurate than PBMT (phrase-based machine translation), and accurate enough to let you get by in most foreign countries.
As good as Google Translate is, it’s better to learn new languages yourself rather than relying on technology. Thankfully, there are some great language learning apps available. Of which my favorite is Duolingo, which can even help you learn to speak Klingon.
Image Credit: Marco Verch/Flickr