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June 13, 2018

Google Translate uses A.I. to improve accuracy for offline use

by John_A

Google Translate is a great tool when you don’t have the language skills to take care of things, but its offline performance can be a bit ropey at times.

That’s gradually changing, however, as the web giant this week announced an update that’ll enable the app to offer more accurate translations even when you’re without an internet connection.

Two years ago, the company introduced neural machine translation (NMT) to the app, a system that processes entire sentences in one go, and which uses artificial intelligence to improve translations over time. Developers at Google have now worked out a way to package this technology for offline use, too, and that’s why you should start to see better translations if you use the app without a connection.

The neural system “translates whole sentences at a time, rather than piece by piece,” Google’s Julie Cattiau wrote in a blog post announcing the update. “It uses broader context to help determine the most relevant translation, which it then rearranges and adjusts to sound more like a real person speaking with proper grammar — this makes translated paragraphs and articles a lot smoother and easier to read.

Cattiau points out how offline translations can come in useful if you’re traveling to other countries without a local data plan, or if you don’t have access to internet, or indeed if you simply don’t want to use cellular data. Another bonus is that each language set is no bigger than 45MB, so they won’t take up much space on your smartphone.

Available for both iOS and Android devices, you can make use of the new feature by opening the app, tapping on Settings and then Offline translation. It’s then just a case of tapping the plus sign and selecting the languages you want to download.

The neural system update is coming for nearly 60 languages this week and will be rolled out over several days, Google said.

Oh, go on then … here’s the full list of languages receiving the update: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Kannada, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Welsh.

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