Google is making it easier for users to employ language-translation services on their mobile devices, even when they don't have access to an Internet connection.
For travelers and others who need to quickly find out how to say something in a foreign language but aren't within range of an available cell tower or WiFi network, this is a huge boon. Instead of relying on a connection, Google is now making individual offline language apps available for devices running Android 2.3 or higher.
The new offline language apps were unveiled March 27 in a post by Minqi Jiang, associate product manager for Google Translate on the Google Inside Search blog.
"Have you ever found yourself in a foreign country, wishing you knew how to say 'I'm lost!' or 'I'm allergic to peanuts'?" Jiang wrote. "The Internet and services like Google Translate can help—but what if you don't have a connection?"
That's where the new offline language packages for Google Translate on Android come in to help, featuring support for more than 60 languages, including Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified), Chinese (Traditional), Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Lao, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh and Yiddish.
Users can install the free app to their Android device and gain the capabilities to translate text and speech, as well as listen to the translations being spoken aloud. Users can input the text they want to translate using their voice, handwriting or the device's camera. Users can also save their favorite translations for easy offline access later. They can also view dictionary results for single words or phrases as needed.
After installing the 5.7MB app, users can choose the offline languages they want to download and store them to their devices for use with translations.
"While the offline models are less comprehensive than their online equivalents, they are perfect for translating in a pinch when you are traveling abroad with poor reception or without mobile data access," Jiang wrote. "So go out and explore another language or another culture without worrying about Internet access. There's a whole world offline out there."
Google Translate for Android was introduced in 2010 and has been steadily gaining useful features for users. In late 2011, Google improved its then-new "conversation mode" feature, which allowed users to communicate fluently with a nearby person in another language. Users could use the feature to speak into their Android handset's microphone so that the app could translate what they say and then read the translation back to them aloud. The person to whom the user directed his or her speech could then reply in their language from their phone. Conversation Mode translates what they said and reads it back to the original speaker.
Google uses its powerful and expansive cloud infrastructure to provide the Google Translator services, according to the company.
Google has been busy recently helping travelers in other ways, including updates to Google Now that give travelers even more up-to-date travel information instantly and automatically, without their having to push a single button for updates on their Android mobile devices.
The Now service is being broadened beyond simple up-to-the-minute weather alerts and upcoming appointments in a user's current location to bring them helpful information on the weather and things to do in the city of their destination as they travel.
This more thorough "info-as-you-travel" feature lets Google Now tell users what the weather will be like at their destination, while automatically bringing up a user's boarding pass at the airport. Then once at their destination, Google Now will display options for things to do in that new location. The service will offer information on local events near users, as well as suggestions for Websites to explore the events and to get more information on museums, culture and more on their journey.
Google Now presents its information through a series of flip-through "cards" that are visible on the screen of Android mobile devices, providing a different piece of information on each card. The cards appear on Android mobile devices at the moment they are needed by users, such as the train schedule card appearing when they are heading to the local train station. Presently, the service is available for devices running Android 4.1 Jelly Bean or higher.