Saturday, November 3, 2012
One of the most powerful language learning tools is in the palm of your hand.
Thanks to the free downloadable app Google Translate, your smartphone can become an instant bilingual dictionary, a native speaker pronouncing words for you, and an instant personal translator accompanying you as you make your way through a foreign country.
Today, I tested Google Translate in English-to-Russian exercises and was astounded at, for the most part, how accurate it was. Since my grasp of Russian is elementary, I experimented by speaking into the microphone simple sentences whose translation into Russian I already knew. The accurate performance was uncanny, like something out of a science fiction movie.
The program display has a microphone icon you can press, which enables you to speak into the smartphone what you'd like to say. A translation then appears on the screen. To hear this translation as it would be pronounced by a native speaker, just press an icon resembling a speakerphone.
This program also comes in handy in testing your ability to generate sentences in your target language. You speak the English sentence into the phone, look away from the screen and imagine the correct translation, then back look at the displayed translation to check yourself.
If you use Google Translate on your desktop computer, rather than a smartphone, the program will automatically create a sound file each time the audio of a voice recording is played back. Written input sounded out with the speakerphone icon will also generate a sound file. That audio file is stored in the drive's Temporary Internet Folder, which can be accessed through this path: