Ina Fried

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Google Puts “Se Habla Espanol” Sign on Android

Google has implemented an early version of a feature for its translation app that does on-the-fly audio translation from one language to another.

The feature, known as Conversation Mode, is being added to Google Translate for Android. For now it works only between English and Spanish, and Google cautions that it is not necessarily fully baked, meaning that regional dialects and other factors can throw off the translator.

Google demonstrated the feature last September (see video below), but is just now adding it to the product as an “experimental feature.” The company is also making other changes to the interface of the translation program, which it says has seen widespread use.

“As Android devices have spread across the globe, we’ve seen Translate for Android used all over,” Google said in a statement on Wednesday. “The majority of our usage now comes from outside the United States, and we’ve seen daily usage from more than 150 countries, from Malaysia to Mexico to Mozambique.”

Google says the app supports text translation between 53 languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish, and voice input for 15 languages.

The Conversation Mode feature comes just in time for next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Now, if only it spoke Catalan.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik