As you may have guessed, my ‘in-laws’ are Italian. They are so wonderful about the fact that I can barely speak Italian (they’re wonderful about everything, really, but that’s a braggy post for another time) despite my 4 years and counting being surrounded by Italians. Even 13+ years of studying French in school doesn’t help me much– I can understand Italian better than some, but that doesn’t make me speak like a pro.
Enter Google Translate’s brilliant app.
I was skeptical at first, I will admit. I use Google Translate online to send emails and messages to his family in Italy, but I’m sure there are plenty of weird mistakes.
I will shamefully admit that I used to write my Grade 12 French essays in English, plug them into Alta Vista’s Babelfish (this is before Google Translate’s time) and then have to spend just as much time correcting all the mistakes as I would have writing the whole essay from scratch in the first place.
So needless to say, my confidence in Google’s Italian fluency was pretty low.
Then I discovered the app.
Ok, it’s still hit and miss. I tried using it to tell M.’s sister and brother-in-law “Hello” and it processed that as “Uncle Enzo” (“Zio Enzo!” the Italian translation obediently chirped in reply).
But if you speak slowly and clearly, directly into the microphone, it’s pretty good. I even tried out some colloquial expressions like “hit the road” and “you’re kidding me”– according to my Italian friends, Google Translate changed them both to the appropriate Italian versions.
While it’s not fool-proof, Google Translate is a great option if your phone is powered up and you need to say something in another language that you can’t manage to find in your little language guide or pronounce yourself.