But it is not perfect just yet, as tests to try out its IsiZulu translations found out at the weekend,
With updates last week, the app, which is downloadable on iOS and Android, can now act as an interpreter thanks to the addition of a real-time voicetranslation mode. It picks up languages being spoken and then converts them to your language.
Before it could not work in realtime, and translate only phrase by phrase.
And users can now also translate messages by taking pictures of the text using the phone’s camera – but this is limited to English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.
Putting the app to use proved it may be useful, but can be slightly frustrating.
It was decent in parts – for umlungu, it said European; for imvula, it correctly said the rain; iklabishi was rightly cabbage; ingilasi was glassy instead of glass, and udoti was crab, instead of “rubbish”. But it could not understand Rihanna’s lyrics. Into the phone, I said, “Who’s gonna run this town tonight?” In IsiZulu, it said: “Ngubani gonna ukusebenzisa le town tonight.”
So, there were still some things lost in translation.
Translating the handwritten note “I love you”, it took a picture and returned two incorrect translations: “Je amour (I love)” and peculiarly, “Je toxique (I toxic).”
On the back of a box which carried a Toshiba hard drive, it was only marginally successful in translating the various languages – at one point it returned with a translation reading, “vast capacity of storage allowing of record of large steels”.
According to BBC News, Skype has launched a similar function.