You’re Pronouncing Street Names All Wrong, and Now Google Can Help

published Feb 8, 2020
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Credit: Lolostock

It’s hard to believe, but Google Maps is celebrating its 15th birthday, which means it’s been a decade and a half since we’ve needed to print out directions or—gasp!—unfold a paper map to help us get to where we need to go. In honor of the navigation tool’s big day, there’s an exciting new feature that will help mitigate anxiety when you’re traveling in a place and you don’t speak the language: a new text-to-speech translator feature that is sure help to reduce travel anxiety.

Working in tandem with Google Translate, Google’s developers are rolling out a feature that will read out loud location and street names in the local language, making it easier for travelers who might not know exactly how to pronounce that restaurant name or want to communicate with a taxi driver with a bit more ease.

According to a blog post announcing the new feature, there will be a speaker button located next to the desired name or address, and Google Maps will say it out loud by automatically detecting your phone’s language and figuring out which words you might need help with. If you need more info, Google Maps will quickly link you to Google Translate, which can help with further translation assistance.

Even with the assistance of apps on our devices, traveling when you don’t know the local language can be nerve-wracking, which was the inspiration behind the creation of this new text-to-speech function. “When you’re in a foreign country where you don’t speak or read the language, getting around can still be difficult—especially when you need to speak with someone,” Google Maps product manager Laszlo de Brissac noted in the blog post. “Think about that anxiety-inducing time you tried to talk to a taxi driver, or that moment you tried to casually ask a passerby for directions.”

So far, there are 50 languages available using the feature, which will roll out on Android and iOS this month, and Google says more languages are on the way soon. And that’s not the only way Google is making travelers’ lives easier: back in December, they announced that their offline translation features were improving, making it easier to avoid roaming charges or eating up data usage when you’re on the go and need assistance.

In a blog post announcing that news, Google Translate product manager Sami Iqram wrote, “In 59 languages, offline translation is 12% more accurate, with improved word choice, grammar and sentence structure,” noting that some languages would see a 20 percent boost in quality, including Japanese, Korean, Thai, Polish, and Hindi.

Props to Google for always making our lives easier, even when we’re hundreds or thousands of miles from home.