You can use Google Translate to read a hard-to-find manga comic or decipher an obscure recipe for authentic Polish blintzes. Or, like Phillip and Niki Smith in Mississippi, you could use it to save a Chinese orphan and fall in love at the same time.
Google now does a record billion translations a day, as much text as you would find in 1 million books for everything from understanding school lunch menus to gathering national security intelligence. It translates into 65 languages, from Afrikaans to Yiddish, and can be used with voice recognition and as an app on mobile phones, even if there is no online connection.
Guan Ya Smith, 14, who is deaf, shows her iPod which allows her to communicate with her new adoptive family via Google Translate. Phillip and Niki Smith (background) and their three other children in Rienzi, Mississippi, use the program to talk with Guan Ya. Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press
As technology moves exponentially, Google translation guru Franz Och’s face lit up when he learned that the Smiths and their new daughter, Guan Ya, 14, were moving into their home. new life together this month, communicating almost exclusively via Google Translate. .
“All day I look at algorithms, algorithms and algorithms,” he said. “It’s so gratifying to hear that this is touching lives.”
In the case of the Smiths, it changed theirs forever.
The Smiths, who already had three children, first spotted Guan Ya less than a year ago when Niki Smith was looking at photos of hard-to-place orphans online, offering simple prayers for them one by one. With three children of her own, including a 3-year-old daughter adopted from China, she had no intention of expanding her family.
Then she saw Guan Ya.
“She was just our daughter,” Smith said of that chance internet encounter nearly a year ago. “There was no doubt about it, from the first time we saw her on the internet.”
There were seemingly impossible obstacles to adopting the girl. First, Guan Ya was months away from turning 14, the age at which Chinese law would make her ineligible for adoption. Guan Ya not only didn’t speak English, she didn’t speak at all.
Guan Ya is deaf.
Undeterred, the Smiths rushed through the paperwork and home study inherent in international adoptions. With the support of Chinese and US authorities, they sped through bureaucracy by running a slew of emails and forms through online translators. And one day, Niki Smith received an email from her future daughter, an unintelligible jumble of Chinese characters.
“Well, I couldn’t begin to read that letter,” Smith said.
That’s where Google Translate came in. Smith cut and pasted the letter into the program’s blank rectangle in his internet browser, and Guan Ya’s thoughts magically appeared.
So began their heartwarming virtual conversation about love, family and life.
“Computers and software are tools, but I have no doubt that these tools have made our bonding much easier,” said Niki Smith.
Associated Press in Mountain View, California