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Edward671 May 1st, 2017 12:37 PM

How has Google Translate worked for you?
We just downloaded this and want to know what your experience in France was like using this. Were the people cooperative? Were they willing to speak into the phone?

Also, does anyone have experience with iTranslate (The Apple product)? Any comments on which is better "in the field"?

FuryFluffy May 1st, 2017 12:43 PM

I haven't tried it, but I think asking people to speak into the phone is quite awkward. It doesn't feel pleasant, unless in dead-or-live situations. And why bother if French people can speak comprehensive English. You may try to learn some French words beforehand. Trying to interact with them by your limited French vocabulary, and by their limited English vocabulary, together with body language, can be fun. Speaking into the phone is not fun ;)

marvelousmouse May 1st, 2017 12:56 PM

I think the verbal thing is pretty useless. I experimented with it. I mean I didn't ask people to talk into it because that's...awkward...but I couldn't make sense of half the stuff it thought I said, mostly because ambient noise throws it off (or at least seems to. My phone also had issues).

I don't know where you're going but honestly the best way to get people to "cooperate" is to use as much French as possible when asking. And manners. I'd pull your phone out as last resort. People are generally really helpful if you're polite, and almost everyone I met spoke enough English to understand me. But read up about cultural stuff- saying Bonjour, Madame/monsieur is something you really need to do. Read up on French pronunciation. The first day or so I had some trouble figuring out directions people gave me because I wasn't connecting spelling with pronunciation.

Google translate is mostly helpful in deciphering fresh boards (regular menu usually comes in an English version), historic signs (they don't seem to translate many of these) and more obscure signs in museums (the main exhibit will have English descriptions but maybe not specific pieces). So you use your camera to snap a pic of the sign and then let google translate do its thing.

Just be patient. And really, really polite. Saw a few instances of other tourists being rude and people who spoke great English to me just a few moments ago would suddenly lose what I'm sure was years and years of language classes. Remember that if it isn't their first language, they also may have to think it through- if they get frustrated or feel you are rushing them, they may not want to try.

spiral May 1st, 2017 12:57 PM

I have used Google Translate in Spain but not for personal interactions - I would find it hard to ask someone to talk into a phone rather than to me but that is just me.

What I have found particularly useful is the camera function. This works without using data if you have downloaded the dictionary before hand. Being able to hold up the phone to look at a notice or sign and then read it in English has been useful on several occasions. It does not cope too well with complex pieces of writing but for checking parking meter instructions etc it has been great.

bvlenci May 1st, 2017 12:59 PM

I've never used the talk-to-the-phone feature, but I've found it useful for taking photos of signs or menus and getting a translation.

hetismij2 May 1st, 2017 01:00 PM

I tried using Microsoft Translator once but gave up It is great for translating signs, using the camera, or words you type in but honestly thee speaking part of apps like that and google are better in theory than in practice.
It is amazing how well you can communicate if you have a few words of French, even if the other person has no English. We have always found the French very patient with us, never rude, perhaps because we make an attempt at the language

WoinParis May 1st, 2017 01:06 PM

I would flatly refuse to talk into your Iphone if you asked me.
However I can read it.
I just hope translation is better than some years back - I remember reading on a french menu a translation of 'croissants' into 'growings'. Why not.

StCirq May 1st, 2017 01:12 PM

I think it borders on offensive to ask someone to talk into a phone. I wouldn't do it. Maybe use it for menus or signs, but don't expect anything close to perfection. Machine translations are a bit better than in the past, but are still pretty awful for anything more than a word or two.

marvelousmouse May 1st, 2017 01:22 PM

Translations actually work surprisingly well. It's actually better for a few lines than one word, because the lines give you context- translate one word and you end up with something like croissant=growings. The main trouble with the machines is grammar. It comes out as sentence fragments, not one cohesive thought, so you've got to figure out what makes the most sense. Museum signs are pretty easy- gist is good enough. Postal slip directions take a little more guesswork.

Andrew May 1st, 2017 02:03 PM

I used Google Translate last year in St. Petersburg, where very few people outside the tourist industry speak English. One morning at breakfast, the server who spoke only a few words of English - only "coffee" and "tea" apparently - did not know what "orange juice" was. So I spoke "orange juice" into my phone, and it said something apparently in Russian...and then she brought me some orange juice. So I guess it worked.

The server didn't seem particularly offended. I'd guess she was more relieved to be able to bring me what I was asking for and then get on with her work.

I wouldn't want to try to have conversations with Google Translate. But I'm not sure why anyone you are trying to communicate with would be offended by speaking into a phone when neither of you speaks the other's language. Haven't you ever experienced the frustration of trying to communicate with someone at a restaurant or lodging without any common language? I've done it without Google Translate - but think most people would prefer speaking into a phone rather than playing language charades for 10 minutes in frustration. Translating just a few words could break a communication impasse.

Would I stop random French people on the street and try to ask them about the weather or their opinion on the French elections using Google Translate? Probably not.

BigRuss May 1st, 2017 03:26 PM

Tried it in Australia - the app failed. It couldn't understand a bloody thing they said.

tomboy May 1st, 2017 06:36 PM


nukesafe May 1st, 2017 06:45 PM

Had the same problem in Scotland, Big Russ. :-)

PegS May 1st, 2017 08:44 PM

We used Google Translate in Istanbul a few years ago. We were on the shared rooftop of our rental apartment, and an older man who spoke almost no English came up and started talking to us. Our Turkish, of course, was worse than his English. Nonetheless, we typed phrases into Google Translate and showed them to him, and we managed to have a lovely conversation. Turns out the guy also wrote poetry, and before we went back down to our mutual apartments he gave us a copy of one of his poems that some other tourist had helped him translate into English. It was one of my favorite encounters of that trip, or any.

janisj May 1st, 2017 09:02 PM

>>I think it borders on offensive to ask someone to talk into a phone<<

It would be more than offensive IMO.

Using it the way Andrew describes would be OK -- where YOU speak in to the phone, not asking strangers to speak into it. Or a special extended conversation like Peg's example.

Translating things like menus or museum captions is useful.

bilboburgler May 1st, 2017 11:33 PM

The recent major improvement 2017 has been significant. My usual test "turn up your trousers" has finally worked. It might be worth trying.

Edward671 May 2nd, 2017 07:35 AM

Thank you all. I guess the app has limited but useful functions. I will not be asking folks to speak into it. I think I will use it and then try my best on my own if they do not know English. But i may keep it out and perhaps they will suggest using it on their own! Fat chance, heh?

Andrew May 2nd, 2017 07:55 AM

I guess I never expected to have conversations with Google Translate - so I find it EXTREMELY useful, not "limited."

Edward671 May 3rd, 2017 01:10 PM

Gee..If I can communicate to someone my needs, I need to understand their answers - thus limited.

Andrew May 3rd, 2017 01:34 PM

Why wouldn't you be able to understand their answers?

Google translate works both ways: if you speak English into it, it can speak French back; speak French into it and it will translate to English immediately. (Also displaying the translated text on the screen it just spoke. You'll also read the English words you just said, too, to know it heard them correctly. ) Not sure why you would find that limiting?

But as I said, I wouldn't want to hold long conversations with it.

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