During a recent trip to Southeast Asia, my husband and I would have been quite literally lost (many times over) without the help of Google Translate. Most memorably, the app helped us communicate with an elderly Vietnamese couple who welcomed us into their home during a tour. It enabled a conversation so fluid the couple wound up offering us glasses of their own home-brewed (garlic-flavored!!) whiskey, and insisting we all take a photo together before we left.
That's why I was so excited to hear that Google Assistant is rolling out Interpreter Mode on Android and iOS phones worldwide (it originally rolled out only on the Google Home Hub). The new real-time translation feature allows you to converse in 44 different languages with the press of a button. It's basically Google Translate 2.0—without the lag time required to pull up an app or type in a website.
The execution is simple: Just say, "Hey Google, help me speak Vietnamese," or "Hey Google, be my French translator" to engage in a fully translated conversation via your phone. (You can also type into the tool, if say, you're trying to borrow a tampon from a stranger in the ladies room, and would prefer not to converse in loud robot-speak.)
When I used a Google Pixel 4 to test Interpreter Mode with a German-speaker, the functionality was smooth, and the translation nearly perfect. I liked that it provided me with both an audio and written translation—a tool that I imagine would be useful if you were attempting to learn a new language as well.
Here's a peek at how the tool works:
Other new features rolling out include the ability to hold your phone over a sign or menu, and view a translation that you can screenshot via Google Lens.
Google Maps will also now feature a "translate" button that allows you to tell a local taxi driver the name of your destination in their native language (no more futilely attempting to point to the map on your phone while miming that you'd like to be dropped off near the pyramid at the Louvre).
I'm just going to say it: Google Assistant's Interpreter Mode is the best thing to happen to travel since the smartphone.
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