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The author

Richard Terry

Group Account Director

December is a month of lists... ‘(mostly) ignored Christmas’ lists, ‘music acts to watch next year’ lists and ‘best whatever of the year’ lists. The lists that have caught my interest this year are those with people rating their top 10 apps that I’ve seen popping up on Twitter. One of the closest to my own list comes from Jamie Riddell’s blog:

I fully agree with Jamie’s choice of Spotify as the top app, it is by far and away the app I use the most frequently – having pretty much every song in the world in my pocket is hard to beat to be honest. But one app that I’m really quite taken with of late is the Google Translate app. I say I’m taken with it... I'm more taken with the possibilities it opens me up to. Let me give you some context: Five years ago I went on my first ever all-inclusive holiday. My fiancée and I were booked into a hotel in Morocco and were both excited about indulging in some good eating and maybe a spot of binge drinking, but it wasn’t to be... I have a nut allergy (the kid at school you’d get to play Russian Roulette with a pack of Revels), and unfortunately everything (EVERYTHING) was cooked in the local oil: Argan oil, from the local nut: the Argan nut. This meant I couldn’t eat anything (ANYTHING). Even chips. The impact of this was two pronged:

  1. No gorging on local foods
  2. No bingeing on local beer (please see point 1)

OK, in reality, point 1 didn’t really impact point 2, but you get the idea. The holiday was pretty much tainted from the first panic stricken evening when (fortunately) the table next to us told us about how nice the food was because it was “all cooked in a local nut oil”. I tried to explain the severity of my nut allergy to the waiter (first language Arabic, second language French, third, language German, forth language English), and while we kind of found a common ground with the word ‘chips’, my inability to speak any of the other languages he could, left me with little confidence that I wouldn’t snuff it, if I ate anything. In my dramatic mind this led to quite a fall out: “What would happen if I did eat a nut, would the local paramedics understand what was wrong with me? Will I ever be able to travel to any of the places I want to see? Will the air stewardess on Malaysia Airlines make me eat peanuts if I fly with them because she doesn’t understand me? Do they speak English in Australia? Is everything served with Peanut butter in America?”... So, five years ago I came to terms that if I were to leave Blighty again it would probably be to go to Gibraltar. Now, I LOVE Gibraltar but I also think there is more to the world. And this is why Google Translate (or at least its potential) excites me. I’ve now downloaded an extension to the app to allow for audio translations of whatever you type in, so that I could communicate my allergy with a little more confidence. All of this is giving me quite a lot more freedom than I thought possible just five years ago, and at a recent Google event they spoke about developing this further so that if I were speaking to the Moroccan waiter over the phone, I could speak in English and he would hear it in real time on his phone in Arabic or French or German or his language of preference... Ok, that would make for an odd way of communicating, but at least I’d be able to order some chips. After this event I told my brother (who also suffers from the same allergy) about it and as I said it, I thought to myself how ridiculous it sounded, like something from a ‘sci-fi’ film. It all sounded too good to be true and I even felt like I might be lying about the whole thing, something my brother accused me of! I thought I probably dreamt about it... And then last week my brother sent me this email: “Subject: Tail between my legs Brother, saw a program on BBC 4 last night about stats (Geek, I know!). It turns out you weren’t lying about Google’s translation thing... Watch this:” To summarise the BBC4 programme, it basically explained why statistics are so important to society and how innovative developments using statistics are being made to essentially improve our quality of life and even change our understanding of the world. Part of this brilliant programme was on the developments Google are making with their translation tool and confirmed the Star Trek-esque real time translation I spoke to my brother about. I look forward to seeing how this app develops in the New Year, and will be trying it out on my honeymoon in Italy in June 2011. Provided I manage to negotiate my way through the local cuisine without popping my clogs, I’ll report back on its success in July next year.