Years ago, I was in Brussels and went for a late afternoon run. I got lost and when I was asking for directions no one spoke English. My 3-mile run became a 5-mile run. Perhaps you also have been in a country where you cannot read or understand the language commonly spoken there. Recently, Andrea and I were on a cruise in South America where Spanish is the common language and English is not widely spoken. We spent 6 days in Chile after the cruise. Both of us know a few words in Spanish but when it came to ordering food on the menu, asking for directions, reading descriptions in a museum, etc we were largely lost. Think about this for a minute; Unless it was at our hotel (or another one), in a tour group, restaurant menus were only in Spanish except at a hotel restaurant, art captions were only in Spanish. What were we to do? Oh, and one other thing: Unless I was on a wireless network, I did not have internet access.
In a museum, reading a menu and other times I found Google Translate to be very valuable in translating Spanish to English and vice-versa. I wish they had it when I did that run in Brussels.
So now you must be wondering, how was I able to use Google Translate even when I had no internet? Around last May, Google Translate was made so that it could be used offline without an internet connection required. By downloading a module that is currently available in about 52 languages (including some like Bulgarian, Esperanto, and Macedonian), you can use it without an internet connection. The beauty is with the speech recognition capability you can talk and it will translate. For example, I asked someone for directions in English. Google Translate with its voice capability asked the same question in Spanish. When the man responded in Spanish, Google Translate translated it with a response in English and we were on our way. But that is not the only place where Google Translate helped us. We ate at a restaurant in Santiago where the menu was only in Spanish. What did we do? We used Google Translate to translate the menu. By moving our smartphones above the words, we got an English translation. The best was when we went to the Centro Cultural Palacio de la Moneda, in Santiago. Taking pictures was not allowed in the Picasso Exhibit. Andrea and I were using our smartphones to translate the descriptions. A few of the guards motioned to us that taking pictures was not allowed. We told them and showed them how we were using our phones to translate to English. The same thing also happened in the Museum of Memory and Human Rights. When we got to the 3rd floor there, the guard saw us and just shrugged his shoulders giving a bit of levity to the somberness of human rights violations. My hunch is that another guard told him before we got there.
While we had a good time in South America, Google Translate made the language barrier less of one. I highly recommend using it when you are in an area where your native tongue is not spoken and you are not familiar with the local language. One last piece of advice: If you are downloading a module for the language you intend to use while not online, do it before you leave and while using a wireless network. Better not to go against your monthly data allowance and you don’t know how fast the wireless network will be while abroad.
If you want to know more about making better use of your phone or other technology tips, I can be reached at (917) 572-3468 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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