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Google Translate can now transcribe conversations in real time

Google is rolling out a real-time transcription feature for its much-loved Google Translate mobile app.

The feature, first previewed in January, arrives on Android today, and is capable of listening in on conversations and immediately turning the speech into text of another language.

The app is capable of transcribing speech from any combination of eight languages right now, with more to follow. Currently, it supports English, French, German, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

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Using the feature is easy, Google says. It’s just a case of tapping on the “Transcribe” icon from the home screen and selecting the source and target languages from a drop-down menu.

In a post on Google’s The Keyword blog, the online giant says the feature will work best in situations where one person at a time is speaking.

In a somewhat heartwarming account, Sami Iqram, the product manager for Google Translate, wrote: “Recently, I was at my friend’s family gathering, where her grandmother told a story from her childhood. I could see that she was excited to share it with everyone but there was a problem—she told the story in Spanish, a language that I don’t understand.

“I pulled out Google Translate to transcribe the speech as it was happening. As she was telling the story, the English translation appeared on my phone so that I could follow along—it fostered a moment of understanding that would have otherwise been lost. And now anyone can do this—starting today, you can use the Google Translate Android app to transcribe foreign language speech as it’s happening.”

There’s currently no word on when the iOS version of the feature will roll out, but Android users can dive in from today. We’ve got to be honest, as reporters, we’d be fine with a free and reliable English-to-English transcription service for conducting interviews, let alone multiple languages.

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