We in the English-speaking world are notoriously bad at using or learning ‘foreign’ languages.  Most of us may get by with a fraction of French, a smidgeon of Spanish or an iota of Italian.  But generally speaking we expect most people to be able to converse with us in English. We can even be surprised if they don’t speak to us in English.

In Scandinavian countries, most of the population speak English to a good level. Europeans as whole have a far better grasp of English than English speakers do of their languages.

Larger English-speaking nations such as the UK, US and Australia are particularly lacking in their language skills.  Canada is slightly different as areas of Canada speak French as a first language.

new languages
Translate app adds 13 new languages.
13 new languages on translate app.

Well never fear, if you are planning on travelling further afield than Europe to more far flung corners of the world, Google’s translate app is adding a new feature and more languages to help you.  Starting this week, the Google Translate app will be capable of visually translating 13 new languages by using the camera on your smartphone

Google added the visual translation feature to the Translate app in 2015 with the support of 27 different languages.

Users can translate dinner menus and signs in real time, making communicating abroad much easier.

With This week’s announcement Punjabi, Bengali, Vietnamese, Thai, Gujarati, Kannada, Nepali, Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam, are being added putting the total number of supported languages close to 50.

Users can access the feature in the Translate app by navigating to the camera icon on the home screen. The app will then prompt you to line up the text you’re attempting to translate and take a photo. After that, the app will scan the text with the use of a machine learning technique known as Neural Machine Translation (NMT), which will then provide a translation into the language of your choice.

The new additions will be available on both the iOS and Android versions of the app, and they started rolling out to devices yesterday.