There are a lot of smart people who work for Google, and they always seem to be coming up with helpful new products. Which makes sense considering the company's mission is to "is to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." That's why Google's search engine drives more than half of all internet traffic.
The thing is, much of the information we need on a daily basis happens in interactions with the people around us. Sometimes that information isn't especially accessible or useful, especially when you're traveling somewhere that you don't speak the language. Until now.
Google is rolling out Interpreter Mode, which debuted earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, to iOS and Android devices. Until now, the real-time translation tool was only available on Google Nest Hub devices, which you aren't likely to have handy when you're traveling in a foreign country and need to get directions or a restroom.
Instead, you can now activate Interpreter Mode on your smartphone by telling Google Assistant, "Hey, Google, be my French translator," or whatever language you need help with. Google will listen to foreign speech and read it out in your language. You can then respond, and it will speak it back in the other language for your conversation partner to understand. In fact, at launch, it recognizes 44 languages.
Interpreter Mode also reads out the conversation in text bubbles (like instant messages), allowing both parties to follow along. If you travel in non-English-speaking countries, this is easily the most useful feature from Google since Maps.
I studied Spanish in both high school and college, which came in handy while traveling for mission work earlier in my life. As a result, I was able to get by in places like Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic, but getting by isn't the same as having a translator.
There were plenty of times I had to fumble my way through conversations, often tripped up by the words and phrases they don't teach you in school. There were plenty of times I had to refer to my trusty Spanish-to-English dictionary, which is obviously not the smoothest way to hold a conversation.
Interpreter Mode, on the other hand, recognizes variations of dialect based on regional differences. For example, the Spanish I learned and spoke in Santo Domingo is quite different from Barcelona's. Having a real-time translator in your hand would be especially (ha!) handy.
Now, you can. If you already have Google Assistant and Google Translate on your device, the update has started rolling out and those apps should update soon. If not, you can download both from the Apple App Store or Google Play.