Google Translate, the Internet giant’s online tool for translating text between languages, is a pretty useful tool. You can use it to read news articles from foreign countries, or to buy items off of another country’s version of eBay. But for Phillip and Niki Smith of Mississippi, Google Translate is an even more powerful tool: It’s virtually the only way they communicate with their 13-year-old adopted daughter, Guan Ya, from China.
First reported by Martha Mendoza of the Associated Press, Guan Ya’s adoption posed a double challenge for the typical U.S. family: Not only does she not speak English, Guan Ya is deaf. The Smiths fell in love with Guan Ya immediately and made the decision to adopt her.
Google Translate helped facilitate the adoption process, from dealing with Chinese officials and forms to translating messages from Guan Ya herself. And now that Guan Ya is living with her new family, Google Translate is more important than ever. She taps out what she wants to say in her native Chinese on an iPhone, and the words are immediately translated into English. Conversations happen just like in any other family, whether at home or at the local store.
Google Translate, in my experience, is never quite perfect. Translations tend to be grammatically rough, and some foreign words simply don’t have an English counterpart. But for this family, Translate appears to be a simple miracle – one that would not have been possible a decade ago. Google Translate is also available as a free app on Google Play.