10 August 2015

Google Translate App -- Seems like this would be a wonderful family history research tool!

The headline caught my eye -- See the world in your language with Google Translate.  My first thought was not my upcoming trip to Columbia, since I’ll have a real-time translator in the form of my Spanish-speaking daughter, and it was genealogy!

Most of us have heritage that spans the globe which means that we are often stymied by not being able to read something just because it’s not in our native language! 

I often use Google Translate on my computer to facilitate my understanding of non-English terms and content or when I’ve needed to translate from English into another language to send an email requesting research support.

Well, I don’t always have my computer with me (or tablet or any of the techy toys that don’t fit in a pants pocket!) or if I do, I might not have easy access to WIFI (yes I could set up a WIFI hotspot on my phone and it’s all becoming rather involved at this point) and yet I do always have my cell phone (set on vibrate as any good library/archive researcher does) with me!

Using the link in the blog post, I downloaded the app to my cell phone.  Obviously, you can also go to the "play store” (for Android phones) or equivalent, search on the app, and download that way.  Do know that on my cell phone it is called Translate – I was looking for Google Translate & so it took a bit of elimination to figure out which app (my phone comes with an app called S Translate – wouldn’t you know?!?!).

To test it – I tried two things both in Finnish. 
+ a column heading from an old Finnish document which said Admitterade
+ the heading from the Finnish Archives website, which says Arkistolaitos.  I picked this because when you select “In English” for the page, this actually isn’t translated.

Using the app and taking an image of my first test item was not a success. I got the response No Finnish text found. To be fair though, Google translate on the web couldn’t handle it either because it happens to be a Swedish word.  During select periods of times and in select areas of Finland (true even today), the official language was Swedish and not Finnish.  Lesson learned – the correct language identification helps! 

The app still didn’t recognize the word and so I used the typing feature.  When I did that, it suggested that I really wanted admitterad though the English translation was also admitterad.  So, a bust.  Though, you can click on a speaker icon and have your phone pronounce the word selected.  I thought that was kind of neat.  If I couldn’t translate it I could at least hear it pronounced!

For my second test, I did have success. The app translated an image of the word Arkistolaitos as Archive Department.

Do know that you will need to download language packets (you will be prompted) for many languages. The app indicated whether this is required or not when you select a language.

Don’t forget to say what language!  It can auto detect if you don’t know and otherwise, I do suggest choosing a language.  The default for me ended up being Spanish to English and so obviously, a Finnish word was a non-starter.

Obviously, I did not strenuously test this app and the photo image capability. And, I had mixed success.

I do possibly have some colonial North Carolina German-language church records in my research future ... maybe I’ll have more success with those!

Did you try the app?  Did you have success using the photographed image method?  Can you see using it real-time while doing family history research when computer-less?

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