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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.

StCirq May 3rd, 2017 01:44 PM

I think any time invested in trying to learn how to use a really silly translation app would far better be used learning some of the language you need to use.

rs899 May 3rd, 2017 01:47 PM

It was said upthread, but needs repeating. Always, always, start any conversation with strangers in France with "Bonjour Madame". Then you can try "Parlez-vous Anglais?" ...and go from there...

It is not something we would think of doing here, but is expected there unless you want to be completely ignored.

Andrew May 3rd, 2017 01:50 PM

I found the "silly translation app" extremely helpful last year visiting six countries with six different languages over 2.5 weeks. I really didn't feel like taking the time to try to learn bits of all six languages then try to keep them straight.

rs899 May 3rd, 2017 02:25 PM

I think Google Translate is a very useful app, but sticking a phone in front of a strange Frenchman is not likely to produce the desired effect. It is best used privately, in any way you find it helpful to you.

Andrew May 3rd, 2017 03:43 PM

I wouldn't find it all that useful used privately. :-)

Again, it truly depends on the circumstances. Using the app at a hotel or restaurant where I'm just trying to communicate? Very useful. Those people, in my experience, get frustrated too in trying to communicate; something that makes it easier probably makes their life and job easier, too.

Walking through the park and trying to strike up conversations with random locals using the app? Probably not something I'd dream of doing, maybe not even if I spoke the language. But I don't see that as some sort of limitation of the app.

fuzzbucket May 3rd, 2017 09:57 PM

If you simply open your conversations with "Bonjour Madame (or Monsieur)", you will find that many people speak English, especially waiters, shopkeepers, doctors, pharmacists...
They will recognize that you are not a native speaker and will normally help you out.
Don't touch any merchandise unless you are invited to do so - especially important with outdoor markets and food.
You should always end your conversations with "Merci Madame (or Monsieur), au revoir."

StCirq May 4th, 2017 12:18 AM

<<I found the "silly translation app" extremely helpful last year visiting six countries with six different languages over 2.5 weeks. I really didn't feel like taking the time to try to learn bits of all six languages then try to keep them straight.>>

You either take the time to learn a bit (or a lot) of local languages or you don't. I always do because I love learning new languages and don't find it a chore at all. But you can never expect a digital toy to manage your communications.

PegS May 4th, 2017 06:14 AM

Yes, I think it's useful to think of Google Translate as a super powerful dictionary. This isn't Star Trek and it's not a universal translator.

NewbE May 4th, 2017 06:32 AM

Oh, get off your high horse, St. Prig! In 2017, there is nothing offensive about using an app, and asking other people to use it with you.

Furthermore, you, Saint of All That Is Fatuously Superior, learned ONE language. People who don't just go to one country but several and are not retired (or, like you, under employed) don't have time to learn them all.

I'm going to take a final wild guess and say that you don't have a proper smartphone, and/or have not downloaded the "silly app", and so are just talking out of your cul, as usual.

Google Translate works a treat. Full stop.

fuzzbucket May 5th, 2017 04:15 AM

I think this last comment is really offensive, no matter to whom it is directed.

menachem May 5th, 2017 05:46 AM

NewbE, I tested that for you. Here's the result

Oh, sortez de votre cheval, St. Prig! En 2017, il n'y a rien d'offensant à propos de l'utilisation d'une application et demande à d'autres personnes de l'utiliser avec vous.

En outre, vous, Saint de Tout ce qui est généreusement supérieur, a appris UNE langue. Les gens qui ne se rendent pas dans un pays mais plusieurs et qui ne sont pas à la retraite (ou, comme vous, employés) n'ont pas le temps de les apprendre tous.

Je vais prendre une dernière estimation folle et dire que vous n'avez pas de smartphone approprié et / ou n'avez pas téléchargé la «application stupide», et vous êtes en train de parler de votre cul, comme d'habitude.

Google Translate produit un régal. Arrêt complet.

menachem May 5th, 2017 05:48 AM

pretty good!


O, ga uit je hoge paard, St. Prig! In 2017 is er niets aanstootgevend om een app te gebruiken en andere mensen te vragen om het met je te gebruiken.

Bovendien heeft u, Saint of All That Fatuously Superior, één taal geleerd. Mensen die niet alleen naar een land gaan, maar meerdere en niet met pensioen zijn (of, net als jij, in dienst) hebben geen tijd om ze allemaal te leren.

Ik ga een laatste wilde gok nemen en zeggen dat je geen goede smartphone hebt, en / of de "domme app" niet hebt gedownload, en gewoon spreekt je gewoon gewoon van je cul.

Google Translate werkt een traktatie. Punt.

menachem May 5th, 2017 05:49 AM


אָה, באַקומען אַוועק דיין הויך פערד, סט פּריג! אין 2017, עס איז גאָרנישט Offensive וועגן ניצן אַ אַפּ, און אַסקינג אנדערע מענטשן צו נוצן עס מיט איר.

דערצו, איר, סיינט פון אַלע וואָס איז פאַטואָוסלי סופּעריאָר, געלערנט איין שפּראַך. מענטשן וואס טאָן ניט נאָר גיין צו איין לאַנד אָבער עטלעכע און זענען נישט ויסגעדינט (אָדער, ווי איר, אונטער אנגעשטעלט) טאָן ניט האָבן צייַט צו לערנען זיי אַלע.

איך בין געגאנגען צו נעמען אַ לעצט ווילד טרעפן און זאָגן אַז איר טאָן ניט האָבן אַ געהעריק Smartphone, און / אָדער האָבן ניט דאַונלאָודיד די "נאַריש אַפּ", און אַזוי זענען נאָר גערעדט אויס פון דיין טאָכעס, ווי געוויינטלעך.

Google זעץ אַרבעט אַ מייַכל. פול האַלטן.

menachem May 5th, 2017 05:50 AM

Not bad at all.

rs899 May 7th, 2017 11:10 AM

I had a chance to play with this again, and I have to say it is a very useful tool. I still don't think it will take the place of knowing a few words of French, but in my case I will use it as a check on my own ignorance. I am fairly good at getting the sense of French when spoken to me (slowly) but speaking it is another matter. I think I can use it to ask the initial question and then parrot the Google translation.

SWMBO , who is a native Russian speaker tried it and was amazed at the accuracy and ease with which it works.

Andrew May 7th, 2017 02:19 PM

rs899: <i>SWMBO , who is a native Russian speaker tried it and was amazed at the accuracy and ease with which it works.</i>

I'd expect Russian to the most accurate language from Google Translate, given that Google co-founder Sergey Brin is Russian. I can easily imagine the first tests (way back before it was developed for a phone) to impress him needing to pass his muster of its accuracy in Russian.

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