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Google Translate for Android updated for easier conversations, and more

There was a time when visiting a foreign land where you didn’t speak the language meant the only way you could communicate with someone who didn’t speak your lingo either was to clumsily leaf through a crusty old phrase book in a frantic attempt to locate a specific phrase before the other person lost interest and walked off. It was either that or a Marcel Marceau impersonation.

In recent years, of course, such situations have become much easier, with apps like Google Translate paving the way for slightly less cumbersome conversations and communications.

Speaking of Google Translate, the Mountain View company rolled out an update for its Android app Wednesday, bringing with it a number of improvements and new features to help the linguistically challenged with their chat-based entanglements.

Improvements to the speech translation element of the free app lead Google’s Matthew Gaba to suggest you’ll be able to enjoy “a fully translated back-and-forth conversation” in two languages “with very little work.”

“All you need to do is open up your Translate app and press the microphone icon,” Gaba explains in a blog post announcing the update.

Gesture support has also been added to the app, allowing you to flip back and forth between two languages simply by turning the screen between a vertical and horizontal position.

In addition, the app’s handwriting feature, which lets you write directly onto the screen words that you want translated, now comes with support for Hebrew, Greek, Javanese, and Esperanto.

Finally, language support comes to the Malay and Ukrainian languages for the the app’s camera translation feature, which cleverly translates printed text off a page after you’ve snapped a photo of it.

Of course, nothing beats being able to speak a language without having to rely on extra gadgets and gizmos during an interaction, but if you’re unable to invest the study time, or have a memory like a sieve, then apps like Translate can come in very handy when trying to communicate with someone in a foreign language or simply to make sense of menus, signs, notices, and the like.

[Google Translate at Google Play]