Google Translate has always been one of the unsung heroes of the free service space. On the one hand, it doesn't provide a perfect translation, so people are still hesitant to call it a true breakthrough. On the other hand, we use it all the time to translate web pages enough to get the gist and, when combined with speech-to-text and text-to-speech, you can use the Android app as the closest thing to a universal translator in your pocket the world has ever seen. Now, it's getting even better with offline language packs.

Starting today, you can download any of the 51 language packs available and have always-on access to translation between any combination of the ones you've chosen. Combined with the offline voice transcription in Android 4.2, and the only thing really missing is text-to-speech for the translated text to turn this into the most amazing app in the world.

Here's the full change log:

What's in this version:

• Translate without a network connection with offline language packages (available on Android 2.3 and above).
• Translate vertical text in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean with your Camera.

The timing of this update is notable, too. Just a couple weeks ago, Samsung announced its new S Translate feature. While this isn't the first product that another company has introduced that Samsung has quickly rebuilt and slapped an "S" on, it's easy to imagine this one stinging Google quite a bit, as Translate has been around for years. The one advantage that S Translate had over Google's product was the ability to perform offline for up to 9 languages. Now, with 51 language packs, it's safe to say that Mountain View has removed Samsung's advantage.

Well, the main advantage anyway. The other is a huge amount of marketing power. Maybe Google should get on that whole letting-people-know-about-its-products thing?

Thanks, Punit!

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • WestIndiesKING

    This was such an important update. When im out of the country i dont have cell coverage and dont always want to get a local simcard to make calls. So being able to have offline dictionary is a HUGE plus. Will definitely run some miles on this

  • http://twitter.com/IamPeePay Tomáš Petrík

    Now this is something!
    Great, Google!

  • Kaushal

    I have to put the phone in airplane mode to use the offline mode translator.

    • http://twitter.com/RaspberryDuff Matt

      Well I imagine the online database is larger than the 150-200MB sizes I'm seeing for the offline language packs. If you have a data connection, it makes more sense for it to try against that larger database than the local one.

      • Kaushal

        Yes, but the problem is that right now I am in a bad network area. If I am not in airplane mode, it takes 10-15 seconds for translation of 1 line. It should be intelligent to look at the available downlink kbps and switch to offline mode quickly.

        • http://twitter.com/RaspberryDuff Matt

          Yeah I suppose that's true, but I think it just assumes that if you have a network connection the couple kilobytes sent up/down shouldn't be too taxing and wouldn't cause a problem for translation. I've never had the issue where translation takes too long, but perhaps it should be made more efficient in its network usage or have this offline option if that's a common problem for people.

  • Jason Banich

    150 megs for french :)

  • jaduncan

    "only thing really missing is text-to-speech for the translated text"

    Just download extra languages in the text-to-speech section of the main system settings and it'll work. It's working for me with a real live Russian right now.

    • http://twitter.com/shamus_carter james kendall

      what TTS are you using? as the built in tts only supports French, English, English UK, Italian, German, and Spanish. would be nice if it had Japanese as a optional data download. oh well at least i can translate from Japanese to English off-line now. and do Japanese voice rec off-line but still would be nice if i could go the other way and have a Japanese tts.

  • http://twitter.com/shamus_carter james kendall

    171Megs for Japanese

  • Freak4Dell

    LMAO. "I see your 9, and raise you 42."

    • Jon

      Yeah, but only if he puts the 9 first. Otherwise I'd still be sitting ducks. I'm glad Samsung forced them to make a move.

  • Mark Bjornholm

    Very powerful. Many thanks!

  • montahchos

    Nice .. now i'll wait samsung to release S Maps so google will release a full offline maps too hehe

  • http://www.facebook.com/abhikurve Abhi Kurve

    And I wonder why does Samsung makes S Translate,Totally unnecessary and waste of time and Human resources.

    • Charles Waterhouse

      Google translate is bad on a LOT of stuff. I speak Spanish (some German, Italian & Portugese in that order) and the translations are almost non understandable at points. The problem is that the English language has many words that mean two things. Lie can mean deception or to lay in a horizontal position. The same things don't apply to other languages. They have their own quirks. S Translate is MUCH better at picking up these differences. I do agree that the offline version is helpful though. I have both on my phone as I travel to Europe 4-5 times a month. I compare both and pick the best. I do imagine this tech will only get better over time though.

  • Beppemi

    Now it's perfect!!! Really thanks at Google for this amazing app!!

  • John

    Be warned: The offline translation is much worse than the online service. There are other offline translation apps that provide better quality

    • khoon

      and give us the link

  • http://twitter.com/thariq_123 Thariq

    arabic stnds 182 mb