India is a country of 1800 languages and dialects. I was born and brought up in Punjab and even then there are some variants of Punjabi like Malwai, Doaba etc. that I don’t understand completely. These variations occur every 100KMs in India. So if you are planning to travel to a remote place in our nation, it is highly likely that you’d face some kind of language barrier while communicating.
In the middle of all this, if you are moving altogether to a new state, you can expect a tougher challenge. One such challenge we faced a couple of days ago was when I had to visit Coimbatore. My father has a 4-month long work related assignment in this city and I was here to help him settle down. Soon I realized that people here don’t know Hindi at all. English isn’t that common of a medium to communicate either. So I start Googling for a possible solution that may not only help me out, but help my dad too once I move back.
And it turns out like most things in our life, crazy engineers at Google, who are working tirelessly to change the world, have thought about this too. Enter ‘Google translate’, that will help you translate speech into different languages in real time. If this isn’t #tech4good, I don’t know what is. Let’s understand how I used it to translate Tamil to Hindi.
How to Use Google Translate?
If you are an Android user, this is pretty straight forward for you. Google assistant has certain keywords that can be used to trigger this functionality. Just say, OK Google,
- Open Translator
- Open interpreter mode
- Be my Tamil Interpreter
If you’re using an iPhone, you have to download the Google Assistant app from the store (link).
There are three input modes available for seamless translation. Let’s discuss them:
Auto mode automatically detects the language of both conversing parties and translates it into other language. This mode is NOT available when you intend to translate Tamil to Hindi.
In this mode, language being spoken has to be manually indicated by tapping the mic button. There is no auto detection of language happening in this case. This mode is available when you try to translate Tamil to Hindi and vice- versa.
As the name suggests, you have to provide input by typing in your sentences in this mode. There are some languages (I tried Punjabi) that only support keyboard mode. Also, if you are thinking if one can type Punjabi (or any other language) in English script, that ain’t going to work. For e.g. you will have to type in Devanagari only if you plan to use this mode for Hindi.
I am sharing this because not all languages support all modes. Luckily, for translating from Hindi to Tamil manual mode was available.
However, at least one of the modes are available for Indian languages like Bangla, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Odiya, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu. Apart from these there are a total of 59 foreign languages supported.
Although, Google Interpreter mode gets the job done of translating Hindi to Tamil and vice versa, however, it had some limitations in my experience:
Remember when you said something and your voice assistant understood something entirely different? Well, Google is facing similar issues in terms of regional languages at the moment. I am sure the way, these glitches have been fixed for English, Hindi etc., future is bright for regional dialects as well. For now, we will have to keep on repeating ourselves if need be.
The translated response is still robotic. In my opinion we have a long way to go until virtual assistants would be able to speak like humans. While I totally understand this, some people may be taken aback (our domestic help was).
Why won’t dumb charades work?
Some of you may be thinking that, what is the point of getting into this hassle, of course it won’t be that difficult. I want to address this noob concern that I had in my mind as well, before coming here. I have never lived or been to place where there isn’t any common language of communication. So I always thought that a few words here and there, some actions (after all, I put a tough fight in dumb charades) and I’ll be able to communicate smoothly. Never have I have been so wrong. And this is coming from someone who wasn’t able to predict the next salary amount correctly. Here are some funny incidents that I will remember for a long time.
The Maid Challenge!
My bubble actually burst when my father challenged me to ask the domestic help how much she’d charge for doing the laundry. Believe it or not, I almost enacted out that infamous advertisement from Jockey that said ‘Ye to bada toing hai“. But I failed terribly.
So we had to go to a place called Ganpathy here. And since cab was taking about 20 minutes to arrive, we decided to take an auto. I took up the challenge of explaining him where I wanted to go. I was successful too. He nodded and quoted a price (which I believe is a fair indication of his understanding of the destination). He was going exactly as per the Google Maps I had opened for my reference. However about 3km before our destination, he stopped at a Ganpati temple and asked us to leave.
And the endless loop of explanations and renegotiations started. Tiring than the journey itself. Please note that I’m 10x more patient than my father. Therefore, we had to find a decent way to translate Tamil into Hindi.
This one happened while we were travelling in a cab. I asked the driver to turn on the AC. What he replied gave me chills to the bone. He said, “Anna, No.. All Covid Positive people-on this seat, Covid Negative People-on this seat” Now I seriously hope he meant that all kinds of people sit here so it is not safe to turn on the AC in Covid times. I think he was referring to general trend and he wasn’t specifically pointing out a Covid positive person who travelled in that cab (Please god!).
While Google’s interpretation mode to translate Tamil to Hindi is far from perfect, but I see myself using it more than often. If nothing, it sets the context of the conversation without doing futile hand movements. In the cases mentioned above, one may have to constantly remind the auto driver and domestic help to talk slowly, clearly for Google to understand. But, once you have their patience on board, it is almost a smooth ride ahead.
Were you aware of this feature? Did you find it useful?
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Until next time..