Most Danes speak English and it is completely possible for me to function at the school, without speaking or understanding the language, in most contexts. However, the Danish documents I want to read would be problematic except for Google Translate. I am able to copy and paste single words, from webpages, or lengthy documents into the tool very quickly. It is also useful for translating my English email messages into Danish. The iPhone app is a lifesaver in the supermarket or confronted with an unfamiliar sign/message.
Several times I have asked colleagues to look check and they have been impressed with the quality of the translation. They have been surprised by the mostly accurate syntax and vocabulary. There are some issues and it does depend on the complexity of the text. Passages with loads of metaphors or vernacular language are less accurate. Generally, I am trying to get ‘the gist’ of the doco, not a quality poetic translation.
How does Google do this? It is quite interesting to learn how the process works in translating a document. Check out this brief video for a brief overview:
Google Translate really transforms what is possible when living or travelling in a country where it is not possible to have a command of the language quickly enough to be able to read or write effectively. I know some language teachers are concerned that students (or exchange teachers) rely on it rather than learning the language properly. Like anything, it is the way the tool is used and the context that is truly important.
What are your experiences with Google Translate?