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Google Translate for Android a learning tool with potential

by Caitlin M. Foyt

Google Translate is an impressive translating application. This free app is so advanced it could give a lot of paid online services a run for their money. That being said, it's not perfect.

On the surface, Google Translate works just like other online translation tool you might be familiar with, popular sites like Freetranslation.com and Babel Fish, for instance.

While this app can translate dozens of languages, this app seems to have a tighter grip on the Romance languages.

Despite its clean, simple design, Google Translate is quite complex, and does more than just turn German text into English.

If you don't already have eSpeak for Android by Eyes-Free Project installed on your phone, the app will prompt you to download. Do it! You won't be able to fully experience Google Translate without it.

This application has something called Conversation Mode, which basically works as a mediator between two languages. Two speakers can talk to each other in their respective languages while the app translates and fires back what's being said in real time.

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Conversation Mode, unfortunately, isn't always accurate. If you speak too fast or mumble, the app has a difficult time picking up on what's being said. It also doesn't do well with background noise or regional accents.

While Google Translate has tons and tons of languages, it doesn't really understand any spoken languages other than Spanish and English, just yet.

The app's ability to understand spoken language means it can also speak to the user, which means it has the potential to be a helpful learning tool when it comes to pronunciation. I was surprised by how human the app sounded.

One thing that got me down about this app was the use of accents. While I didn't have a problem translating English into French, I noticed that I did have some difficulty doing it the other way around. There are a lot of accents in the French language, and they're kind of key when you want an accurate translation. I couldn't, for the life of me, find an option on the app or anywhere on my Droid that would allow me to put in the proper punctuation marks.

As somebody who studied language in school, I think it's important to point out that no computerized translation service will ever be perfect — and Google Translate is no exception. Translator tools are just tools, which means they aren't some kind of magical computer that fluently speaks Japanese. They don't always understand slang or word context. You need language classes to really understand that stuff.

This is a great, free app to take with you on your European vacation or to use when texting with your Spanish pen pal. Even if you can only see yourself using Google Translate on occasion, it's still worth checking out.