True Life: Google Translate Saved My Trip From Becoming A Disaster

We interrupt our current review of an amazing trip for this special announcement…Google translate is the greatest app that has ever been invented!

BACKGROUND

I travel often and, for various reasons, some of my trips never make it on the blog (or on instagram). Case in point…in the last ~48 hours, I have had a rather crazy experience traveling from the US to Japan and back.

I am grateful to speak English as my first language (although, my high school English teacher may disagree with that assessment). And in my experience, regardless to where you go in the world, you’re bound to find someone that speaks English. Some countries can be a bit more challenging but generally you won’t have any trouble communicating.

If you, for some unique reason, find yourself in a situation where NO ONE speaks English, Google translate is the answer.

Google Translate: The Lifesaver

With the invention of Google Translate on portable electronic devices, different languages have become less of a communication barrier in recent years.

If you are not familiar with Google Translate, it’s an app that can do, essentially, anything when it comes to translating languages. And when I say anything, I mean…ANYTHING!

For example, you can simply point your device equipped with a camera (i.e. phone, iPad, etc.) at printed text and have that text automatically translated for you without pressing a button.

I took this photo with my phone…

…and then took this screenshot a few second later…

For those that don’t speak Spanish, the translation is spot on!

Other features of Google Translate include:

  • Text Translation — Translate between 103 languages by typing
  • Offline — Translate in 59 languages with no internet connection
  • Instant Camera Translation — Translate text in 90 languages in images instantly by simply pointing your camera at the text
  • Photographs — Take or import photographs for higher quality translations in 50 languages
  • Conversations — Translate bilingual conversations in 43 languages
  • Handwriting — Draw text characters instead of typing in 95 languages
  • Phrasebook — Star and save translated words and phrases for future reference in all languages

MY EXPERIENCE

I found myself in a peculiar situation. I was traveling to Tokyo, Japan. I would be arriving at Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT) but would be departing the country via Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) several hours later.

I decided to take the train from NRT to HND. This is the fastest and best way to transfer between airports. It can be a fairly straight-forward process for those that are confident in their map reading ability (which I think I am).

However, the Tokyo subway system is a beast and makes the New York MTA or London Underground look like was in the park. Don’t believe me?

For simplicity, I had to travel from the black star (upper right hand corner) to the other black star (bottom middle). Additionally, I would be passing through downtown on my way to HND and had a few extra hours of free time so I decided to get off of the train and get something to eat…a decision I would later come to regret.

After exiting the train in downtown, I walked to a restaurant that was, literally, 2 streets over. However, after eating, and departing for the train station, I became so lost! I was confident that I was headed in the correct direction. Ironically, my ‘google maps’ app was not updating my location and the more I attempted to fix the situation, the worse it became.

REALITY TV TO THE RESCUE

I don’t watch TV too often but when I do, I’m usually indulging in a marathon of “90 Day Fiancé” or “Marriage Boot Camp.” It’s great reality tv! 😉

Currently, there is a couple (Anna and Mursel) on 90 Day Fiancé that are going to get married but neither of them speak the same language. Anna is from the USA, Mursel is from Turkey and they use google translate to communicate every sentence.

Remember how I said there are some countries where it can be more challenging to communicate in English? Well, Japan comfortably fits in the TOP 5 countries on that list.

Since google maps was not functioning on my phone, I had the bright idea to ask for directions using the Anna-Mursel method.

The ‘conversation mode’ in google translate will audibly detect the languages and translate for you automatically if you and another person do not understand each other because you both speak different languages.

As I walked down the street, I asked an older couple for directions to the train so I could get to the airport. They were amazed (and so was I)! It worked like a charm.

Fortunately, I was able to arrive at the airport with a few minutes to spare and didn’t miss my flight.

FINAL STAMP

Here’s the bottom line..

  1. Google translate is free to download on your device so download it today. You never know when you may need it.
  2. It’s important to know at least one word (or phrase) of the native language in a country you’re visiting. I try to know at 5.

Seeing the stunned look of surprise – and sometimes embarrassment when they see a black guy speaking Spanish or Japanese wondering how much of their conversation I’ve understood – is priceless!

Personally, I try to assist any person that appears to be lost or having trouble communicating wherever I am even if he or she understands little to no English. As far as I am concerned, that person is doing better in attempting to speak English than I would be attempting to speak his or her language.

With every update of the software, this program eliminates the language barrier. However, I still believe that learning a language gives you a better appreciation of that language.

Have you ever had a challenge communicating in another country? What was your experience?

9 comments

  1. Ha! I had a similar experience in Japan. We wandered into a residential neighborhood and thought it would be simple to put 7-11 (the store) into the Uber app to tell them where to pick us up; however, 7-11 is on every corner in Tokyo so just trying to get someone to tell us the address in English AND understand what we were asking was quite the task until I used google translate. Fast forward to getting on the wrong train in Kyoto heading back to Tokyo trying to get back in time for a flight was quite stressful because as you noted, the train stations are quite the beast. Google translate to the rescue again.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 7-11 on every corner..Ha..very true. I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only person to have this experience. I can’t remember the last time I missed a flight but I was really scared.

    Like

  3. You know what I love about this comment? It just confirms that there is someone out there that understands me and enjoys these juicy shows as much as I do. 🤣 I’m a few episodes behind so I gotta catch up.

    Like

  4. No way you watch 90 day fiance too? I knew i loved your instagram for more than travel. Google translate is a life saver. Used it for my first solo trip. I was in italy and kept telling them the spanish words i knew hoping they would understand. It did nothing. Someone on fb suggested i use google translate and ive been using since then. Even with my patients who don’t speak English or French.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 🤣 How could you NOT watch it!? It’s phenomenal TV! And concerning google translate, it’s even more of a life saver when you get off the beaten path. Just hold up your phone camera and voila 🎉

    Like

  6. Aaah interesting. I will try that because asia is on my list but afraid of being stuck without getting help. I want to go to Japan so bad, this am i bought mochi balls because this youtuber and instagram travel influencer eats them all the time 😂😂😂😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You’ll never be stuck. There’s always help, it may just take a little longer to sort things out. p.s. I have Japan scheduled for April. I’ll give the mochi balls a whirl for ya.😉

    Like

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