An unfortunate accident can turn even the best of days into a challenging ordeal, especially when you find yourself in a foreign country with language barriers. A few months ago, I experienced a road accident in Vietnam, and without the aid of the impressive language translation app, Google Translate, I would have undoubtedly required assistance from the local embassy or even medical evacuation.
Can you relate to relying on Google Translate in a time of emergency?
Allow me to share the backstory, which may seem all too familiar to seasoned travelers. As someone who has driven around the world, this particular trip was different. In short, my adventure of exploring rural Vietnam on a rented two-wheeler, just a couple of hours away from Hanoi, took a dramatic turn from exhilaration to nightmare. A dilapidated road, a snapped brake cable, and a subsequent fall resulted in broken bones, bruises, and significant blood loss.
I’ll spare you the graphic details, but by the time I managed to reach a local hospital, I was in a state of near panic. Struggling with limited knowledge of the local language, severe blood loss, and a weak cellphone connection, the Vietnamese words “Làm ơn giúp tôi” (“please help me”) echoed in my mind as I stumbled around in a daze, desperately seeking aid.
Google Translate turned out to be a true lifesaver as I attempted to communicate the severity of my injuries to the emergency medical staff. It’s not surprising that doctors in rural Vietnam prioritize their native language over English when dealing with foreign tourists. After struggling to convey the extent of my injuries to the doctor, I had a last-ditch realization and turned to Google Translate. As a technology enthusiast, it should have occurred to me sooner, but considering the circumstances, I hope you understand my state of mind.
Fortunately, I had downloaded the offline language pack, which proved invaluable given the unreliable internet connection. Within seconds, I was able to convey the details of my injuries to the visibly frustrated hospital staff, thanks to Google Translate.
I quickly typed up a concise summary of the accident and the injuries I suspected I had sustained, and handed it to the doctor at the emergency desk. This simple act significantly expedited the treatment process. No longer was I at the mercy of other patients with limited English capabilities trying to make sense of my fragmented explanations. Instead, I found myself engaged in a one-on-one conversation with the doctor.
While I realized that I could have further expedited the conversation by utilizing the voice-based conversation mode or Google Assistant’s interpreter mode, the chaotic situation called for a more succinct exchange. Text-based translation proved to be the perfect solution for that purpose.
If I had to nitpick, the only inconvenience I encountered during the entire process was having to constantly pass my phone across the counter. However, given the circumstances, I have no cause for complaint. Google’s upcoming dual-screen interpreter mode on the Pixel Fold seems to address this issue perfectly. However, I believe that conversation and interpreter modes are better suited for different scenarios, such as shopping or chatting with locals at a coffee shop, rather than critical situations. The dual-screen interpreter mode could facilitate even quicker and seamless conversations, but it may not be suitable for situations that require brevity. In emergencies like the one I experienced, brevity and accuracy are paramount. The traditional type-and-translate function served its purpose admirably.
Months later, the memory of that fateful moment still lingers, but it has renewed my appreciation for the everyday technology that we often take for granted. Although I may not have been in mortal danger and would eventually have received medical assistance, Google Translate facilitated much more than a basic conversation. It enabled me to provide the context of the incident and ask specific questions about the status of my X-ray and the specific bones that had been broken. It eased the challenges of navigating a difficult situation and allowed me to return home on the next available flight.
Have you ever found yourself relying on Google Translate during an emergency or while traveling? We would love to hear your experiences and thoughts.
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Deepak Sen is a tech enthusiast who covers the latest technological innovations, from AI to consumer gadgets. His articles provide readers with a glimpse into the ever-evolving world of technology.