Translation Apps Are Great Right Now, but Don’t Use Them
With trendy new updates like neural network training , translation apps like Google Translate and Microsoft Translator are better than ever. They can translate almost anything you want. But do not rely on them when traveling. In fact, I believe you should use them as little as possible – if at all.
Google Translate and Microsoft Translator have evolved into more than competent translation tools . They can translate speech almost instantly, read and translate text offline, and even use your smartphone’s camera to translate signs and menus in real time. With any of these apps, you can easily navigate a foreign country. But if you strive to get as much out of travel as possible, using it will be a huge disservice to yourself and your experience in general.
Language is more than an obstacle to overcome when you go to see what’s behind your front door. This is how you begin to understand the culture. As writer Rita Mae Brown said , “Language is a cultural roadmap. He tells you where his people are coming from and where they are going. ” So by relying solely on a translation app, you immediately lose a key component of understanding.
But if you do a little homework and try to master some of the basics of the language, you will discover real connections. You transform from a tourist to a traveler and show unparalleled respect, acceptance and cultural appreciation that does not go unnoticed. As embarrassing as it may be for you to say new words, they enjoy it.
I experienced this firsthand on my recent trip to Japan. When I arrived, I was ready to hack my phone at any moment. But I quickly realized that I was looking at a fascinating culture through a filter. After the first day, I put my phone in my backpack and decided to use that very little Japanese that I had learned before leaving. When I was idle on trains and hotels, I turned to the little phrasebook I took with me, but the translation apps I tried so hard to try never appeared again, and I was overjoyed at my choice.
By chance, I started a conversation with a beautiful woman from Shibuya simply by saying that the melon bread treat I was holding in my hand was delicious. I kept Shinjuku’s obscene street vendors obscenely – the best way to say “pimps” – from harassing me with a few key phrases. They helped me find a thing that is hard to find in a busy seven-story mall in Akihabara. I accidentally tried and enjoyed a few dishes and drinks that I might not have had if I had translated the menu. And I watched the melancholic face of the convenience store cashier light up when I surprised her with the words “good evening,” “I really like them,” and “thank you very much.”
These were spontaneous experiences that would not have happened if I had left all my language on my smartphone. Of course, I would still have a great trip, but I would have missed all the little things that really stuck in my mind. While traveling, you see many interesting places and things. You can take pictures of these places and things to look at them from all angles, but I believe that the little things of everyday life within a particular culture are much more interesting and memorable, and these are the impressions for which you really travel – otherwise you could just look at pictures at home. Someday I will forget what Nijo-jo castle looked like, but I will never forget a conversation I had in Kyoto with a knife maker about engraving a blade that was just made.
In addition, the time I took to immerse myself in life reminded me how much it is possible to learn a new language. Developing fluency in a second or third language may seem like such a steep climb, but even breaking down the smallest language barriers opens up an opportunity in your mind to go beyond these basics. And there is nothing better than the need and urgency to push you through these obstacles. When you keep your smartphone in your backpack, you have to rely on what you have learned. It forces you to work hard and get well. And when you understand how capable you really are, it gives you more confidence that you can learn more. I decided to study the rest of the Japanese language and its three alphabets in my spare time, which was facilitated by my trip.
If you’ve played a video game, using a translator app for all your interactions would be the easiest setup. It may seem enjoyable and stress-free, but in the end you will just keep doing the movements until you reach the end, before you know it. No problem, no problem thinking, and less adventure – which means it’ll be less memorable.
You don’t need to increase the difficulty to “Hard” and completely avoid the translation tools like I did, but at least play on “Normal”. Get translation apps ready in case you really need them, but do yourself a favor and try to immerse yourself in the culture. When you speak someone’s language – even a little – you are accepting a possibility that would not otherwise exist.