Translating a Legal Document With Goggles

A post today from Andrew Gomez on the Google Blog:

Imagine being in a foreign country staring at a restaurant menu you can’t understand, a waiter impatiently tapping his foot at your tableside. You, a vegetarian, have no idea whether you’re about to order spaghetti with meatballs or veggie pesto. What would you do? Well, eventually you might be able to take out your mobile phone, snap a photo with Google Goggles, and instantly view that menu translated into your language. Of course, that’s not possible today — but yesterday at the Mobile World Congress we demonstrated a prototype of Google Goggles that has the power to do just that. It’s still in an extremely early stage, but we thought we’d share this demo with you because it shows just how powerful a smartphone can be when it’s connected to our translation technologies.

Granted, a menu is at an entirely different level of sophistication as legal documents, but there is some potential here.

I heard Christopher Aide of Baker & McKenzie speak this week at Western Law on careers in private international law. In addition to multiple calls and work experience in numerous jurisdictions, one of the primary skills he considers necessary for international legal work is fluency.

He did not define fluency as simply linguistic fluency, but also cultural fluency – the ability to understand and relate to other cultures and deal with them in a business setting.

Google Googles isn’t likely to replace the type of intimate interaction needed in cross-cultural communication. But it might help lawyers developing those skills gain this fluency by translating it back to their native language. And for that, a menu is definitely not a bad place to start.

Keep track of updates and check out a demo on the new Google Translate blog.


  1. I think that at the moment it only works on Android phones, though Google has confirmed that it will be ported to the iPhone and, I believe, the BlackBerry.

    An iPhone app, PicTranslator, works pretty much the same way. It costs a buck and each language you want costs a dollar as well. Not bad for a little language fluency.