I always say that no matter what I forget to pack, it doesn't really matter as long as I have my passport and my phone when heading to another country. Anything else can be purchased when I get there. Yet on a trip to Mexico City this summer, I discovered an app that forever increased my ability to communicate with others and navigate all the many Spanish words not in my mostly food-related vocabulary.
Google Translate has been a valuable internet tool for years now, but I never knew there was an app—even though they've been around since 2010 for Android devices and 2011 for Apple iOS. But the updates keep getting better and better and the space-age technology is truly amazing. Currently, you can use the app to translate more than 100 languages, 37 of which can be doing via photo, 32 by your own voice (or someone who's speaking to you), as well as 27 languages in real-time augmented video. This is the mode that really blew my mind.
In augmented video mode, you simply point your camera at a sign, menu or almost anything, really, that has clean, block lettering. The app instantly translates and changes what you see on the screen. So cool!
As you should expect, it's not 100% accurate, but pretty darn close. And unlike expensive designated translation devices hitting the market, this one's 100% free.
Or as they say in Mexico, gratis.
Google Translate for Android: Download here.
Google Translate for Apple iOS: Download here.