Google Translate for Android, the mobile application of the popular machine translation software, now enables users to translate speech back and forth between 14 languages, the company said.
Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) launched Translate for Android last year to help Android phone owners translate content into different languages via text and for spoken translation on Android handsets. The tool enables text translation among 63 languages, voice input in 17 of those languages, and text-to-speech in 24 of them.
The company earlier this year added Conversation Mode, which lets users to translate chats between English and Spanish.
Now Google has made the tool available from Android 2.2 handsets and later in Brazilian Portuguese, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin Chinese, Polish, Russian and Turkish.
However, the technology is young and unpolished, which means background noise and regional accents may affect accuracy. This is true of most speech recognition technologies, where the software must cut through background chatter and noise to keep on task.
Yet as with all Google speech recognition technologies, Conversation Mode learns from examples, so Google wants people to keep using it.
Users who want to try the feature can speak into their Android handset’s microphone, and the Translate app will translate what they say and read the translation back to them aloud.
The person to whom the user directed his or her speech can then reply in their language from their phone. Conversation Mode will translate what they said and read it back to the original speaker.
The technology is important at a time when Apple’s Siri artificially intelligent personal assistant allows users to speak into their phone to have it find certain information and conduct other tasks.
Google said it also added some features to make it easier to speak and read as a user translates. This enables the user to do other things beyond simply waiting for translated responses to conversations.
“For example, if you wanted to say, ‘Where is the train?’ but Google Translate recognizes your speech as ‘Where is the rain?’ you can now correct the text before you translate it,”said Google Product Manager Jeff Chin. “You can also add unrecognized words to your personal dictionary.”
Also when a user views written translation results, he or she can tap the magnifying glass icon to view the translated text in full-screen mode to easily show it to someone nearby, or pinch to zoom in for a close-up view.