World travellers can now make even more use of the Google Translate app after a big update adds some real-time features making use of a smartphone’s camera and microphone.

The Word Lens feature will allow users to point their camera at a foreign language sign and see the translated text on their screen. This feature works in real time without need for a data connection, according to a blog post on Google Translate. Previously, the camera was able to translate text in a foreign language sign by requiring the user to take a picture of it. The instant translation works across several languages to and from English: French, German, Italian, Portugese, Russian, and Spanish.

Also new to the app is Conversation mode. Users looking to communicate with someone speaking a foreign tongue will open this mode and tap the mic icon. After speaking, tap the mic again and the app will recognize which two languages are being spoken. From there on out, the translation will be automatically relayed between the natural pauses of the conversation. This video will give you an idea of how it works:

You will need a data connection for the Conversation mode to work, as it uses Google’s cloud computing to do the translation processing. The updates are rolling out to the app on both iOS and Android platforms over the next several days.

Google says more than 500 million people use Google Translate every month. With this new update, maybe those users will avoid the embarrassment of ordering the wrong item off an Italian menu, or not knowing how to ask where the bathroom is.

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