Tuesday, 3 January 2012

POV: iPhone's Google Translate As A Fixer?


I recently jumped ship from Blackberry to iPhone, and was glad to see how its various photography apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic were ice-breakers during my trip to Cambodia. Even elderly and normally reserved Buddhist monks were excited to choose the filters to apply on the pictures I took of them with the device.

A few days ago, I downloaded Google Translate, a free iPhone app, and realized it would very useful whilst photographing in a country where I needed an interpreter. I am not suggesting it'd replace a fixer or an interpreter, but it will certainly help out in situations where I am either on my own or when my fixer is unavailable or helping someone else.

For instance, if I'm in India and require assistance in asking permission from people to take their picture while my fixer is elsewhere, I'd rely on the app to provide me with a reasonable translation (both in writing and spoken). In the picture above, you'll see I typed "Can I take your picture?" which is translated as "Maiṁ apanī tasvīra lē sakatē haiṁ" in Hindi. The cool thing is that the app can also 'speak' the translation.

I don't know if this is the precise grammatical form (I'm sure my friends in India will eventually let me know), but I know the word tasvīra is to photograph...so I'm sure that I'd get across with that phrase much more easily than repeating "tasveer tikke?" like a parrot as I normally do.

I've tried the same phrase with the three languages I know well...French and Spanish (it's spot on), and with Arabic (it's very close). So I'm quite sure it'll do well in the available languages, especially if the phrases are simple...such as "Stand here"..."Relax"..."Be natural",  "Where's the bathroom?", etc.

All I need to do before traveling to India (as an example) is to make a list of the common phrases I could need....enter these in Google Translate and save the translations. Whenever needed, I'll just need to access my translation history and voila!

No, it'll never replace a fixer or interpreter...but in a pinch, it'll be very helpful...and would be an added icebreaker.

I know...the picture of my iPhone above is crap. I'm too lazy to do a proper lighting set up.