If you use Google Translate a lot, you’ll have probably noticed that over the last couple of years the translations it offers have improved a lot. The reason Translate got better at its job is machine learning. AI algorithms, specifically named neural machine translation (NMT), have allowed Google Translate to offer much more accurate translations.
For the last two years, however, there has been a catch in that the NMT has only worked when happening on Google’s hardware. In short, it only works if you’re connected to the internet when you’re using Google Translate
Google Translate offers language specific download packs. If you think you’ll be offline or if you don’t want to use international roaming you can download a language pack and use Google Translate when you’re offline. Although useful, this phrase-based machine translation (PBMT), as Google calls it, falls short of the NMT available if you can connect to Google’s servers.
Google has now announced that it is bringing a version of NMT to mobile devices. You’ll be able to benefit from AI assisted translation even if you’re using a downloaded language pack and you’re not connected to Google’s servers.
Amazingly, Google Translate language packs only take up 35-45mb of space, so they’re well worth having. Google points out that the on-device version of NMT still isn’t as effective as the online version but that it is much more accurate than the previous PBMT method. Google says it will be rolling out the new On-device NMT in 59 languages in the next few days and offered these instructions to those wanting to take advantage of it:
“To try NMT offline translations, go to your Translate app on Android or iOS. If you’ve used offline translations before, you’ll see a banner on your home screen which will take you to the right place to update your offline files. If not, go to your offline translation settings and tap the arrow next to the language name to download the package for that language. Now you’ll be ready to translate text whether you’re online or not.”
Offline translation is a really useful feature. If you’re low on data, traveling abroad, or you’re simply prudent enough to want to take advantage of Wi-Fi whenever you have it these new On-device AI algorithms will make a big difference to your language translations.