Android Tips

Google Translate NMT update brings high-quality offline translations


  • New Google Translate NMT (neural machine translation) makes offline translations almost as effective as online translations.
  • The new NMT technology applies to 59 languages for right now.
  • Not all users will have access for now, but everyone will over the next few weeks.

Google announced today on its blog that it is introducing neural machine translation technology to Google Translate. This new Google Translate NMT upgrade will allow offline translations on your smartphone to be almost as effective as online translations.

When you use Google Translate while connected to the internet, your smartphone isn’t actually doing the translating; it’s sending the information into the cloud where Google’s machine learning computers do the heavy lifting and then send the response back to you.

Previously, with offline translations, your smartphone would use phrase-based machine translation, an older form of technology. This resulted in much less-effective translations that could potentially garble up the entire meaning of what you’re trying to translate.

The new on-device NMT will enable translations to be as effective or at least much closer to the effectiveness of Google’s own machine learning computers. Look below to see an example, provided by Google:

A screenshot of Google Translate NMT in action, as compared to previous Google Translate models. Google

As you can see, offline NMT is much better than previous offline capabilities, but online NMT still wins the day. However, at least the offline NMT translation doesn’t mangle the whole meaning of the phrase being translated.

Google says the new Google Translate NMT technology will work on 59 languages: Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Belarusian, Bengali, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Georgian, German, Greek, Gujarati, Haitian, Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Jannada, Korean, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Marathi, Norwegian, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Telugu, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese and Welsh.

To its credit, Microsoft rolled out a similar update to its own translation app earlier this year. However, Microsoft currently only supports about a dozen languages.

You should be able to use offline NMT for the language of your choice over the next few days, but it could take more than a week for you to see the updates. When you do, each language pack should only take up about 30 or 40MB of space on your smartphone.



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