Many people move to Switzerland and live here for years without ever learning German. The xpats make their way to their multi-national company and speak English on the campus and zip home on the easy to use trams. Even with such a schedule one must cook food for the family since eating out is very expensive. It seems all of the groceries sold here in Basel have ingredients and cooking instructions in three languages: German, French and Italian, but rarely anything in English (with the exception of Barney's Best peanut butter).
Meine Kinder and ich figured out quickly that our actual cooking time would take much longer than the predicted cooking time advertised by a picture on the package. The translation often took longer than the cooking. Honestly, I already know how to cook mashed potatoes and such, but I take advantage of every opportunity to use a real life situation to teach us new words and recognize how valuable understanding German could be while living in Switzerland.
Although I find Google Translate to be easier to use on the computer, since we are in the kitchen the mobile phone is a much better form factor for figuring out the recipe. Inputting information on the phone can be cumbersome, but Google Android Gesture Typing combined with Androids multi-lingual support makes it really easy to type a lot quickly in German.
Above you see the standard English keyboard identified by the space bar.
Pressing the World icon switches the keyboard to German, swaps the y and z letters and allows special chararcters to be selected which are specific to the lanaguage. Here I show the S key offering the Eszett letter highlighted in blue (after a long press). When switching I get the German dictionary so the suggested words are now in German rather than English. Watch this Youtube video to see Gesture Typing in action.
Even with such a friendly phone I grew tired of typing so much of the German instructions into the Google Translate app. During one of our cooking sessions I remember saying:
I wish Google Translate would just take a picture of this package and translate the words so I wouldn't have to type.
Google answered my wish with an upgrade to the app. Now I'm able to take pictures of the cooking instructions and Google just tells me what to do. Here is some screenshots of cooking chicken:
I took the picture, Google sends the image to their servers for some OCR action and sends back the text possibilities. I highlight the part of the image of interest and the translated text shows up immediately. Here are the results:
In the end we could get by without translating every single word, but it is nice to have Google Translate App on my phone to make sure the chicken is cooked to perfection. In fact I've put my Google Translate App icon where the phone icon previously rested since we are still too new here, I don't have many people to call. I look forward to the day this photo - OCR - translation feature makes it into Google glass and I just look at the package and the translated text is already in my viewer.