It happens all the time; you wake up with just your iPhone and a treasure map, a dead body in the bathtub and a 9mm pistol with the serial numbers filed off. Suddenly, you realize you’re in a foreign country and you have no idea how to ask “Where can I find the library?” Now, granted, you could use the mobile version of Google Translate, but what if someone built a better front-end for that, one that let you share, save, and listen to the words and phrases you needed to translate?
Oops! Cops are coming up the stairs faster than you can say “Please bring me a yellow pencil!”
What is it?
GoTranslate is an optimized front-end for Google Translate. You type in the words or phrase you want to translate, and it quickly converts them to or from over 66 languages, complete with diacritical marks.
How does it work?
You type, copy/paste, or dictate the text you want in the top of two text boxes, selecting the language that it’s in. If if you don’t know that, there’s also an Auto Detect function that’ll do its best to guess what you’ve put there. After you’re done dropping words in, just hit “done” and the app will translate it for you. It’s beyond simple.
Once you’ve got your translation, you can copy it to the clipboard, or share it from within the app using email, iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. You can also listen to a synthesized reading of the translated phrase, but this is by far the weakest link; rather than the mellifluous tones of Siri or any number of other computer voices, GoTranslate sounds like the computer that challenged Matthew Broderick to a game of Global Thermonuclear War. The audio function is also limited in that the text must be less than 100 bytes (that’s bytes) in size, eliminating all but the most rudimentary phrases.
Then I realized, I could turn on the iPhone’s VoiceOver function and override this limitation by using Siri as Text to Speech. I’m not sure how accurate Siri sounded in Icelandic, but it was a darn sight better than the error message saying the text couldn’t be read at all.
Is it contagious?
I’ve used GoTranslate with some of my foreign friends, and based on the fact that they’re still speaking to me, I assume that the translation was accurate and/or funny. Its greatest strength is in copying and pasting text, so if you find yourself needing to translate languages from the web while mobile, it’s a great improvement over the mobile version of Google Translate, which is positively primitive.
Another use while travelling would be to use the dictate function to allow a conversation where you translate what you’re trying to say, let the other person read it, then reverse the process. I’m not entirely sure how useful it is to learn how to read another language, and as for learning how to speak another one, forget it.
But despite the text-to-speech limitations, the sharing and history-storing features make GoTranslate a versatile app. At three bucks, though, it’s designed for people who need those features, and need them fast, rather than someone who just wants to learn how to swear in Finnish, Basque, and Haitian Creole.