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Translation while in phone call - the two phone approach

dgallen

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (6), Primitivo(3), Finisterre/Muxia (3), Aragones, Norte, Portuguese, Camino del Rey
In a month I'm heading for a 2 1/2 month "best of the Podienisis GR 65" and Camino "whatever tickles my fancy". One of the challenges on previous walks has been the ability to converse on the phone in either french or spanish. Since this year is an outlier and requires booking accomodation in advance (especially on the French routes) I want to be able to have instant translation over the phone when a bilingual camino buddy or helpful host is not readily available.

Everyone loves Google translate, whether using for conversations, reading signs, menus or printed media. It is awesome. It especially works well for offline use. It is even better when connected and you can use the Google Assistant (which Google Translate is now baked into) and tell Google to "act as my translator"... good stuff. Where it falls down is during an actual phone call whether via the dialer or whatsapp etc. So this year I'm trying the "two phone" approach.

What it means is carrying two phones. My main phone with local SIM is the heavy lifter for calls, emails, guides, maps, photos, videos, wifi etc. The second phone will act as the interpreter. The first phone will have a wifi hotspot created and the second phone will use it for access to Google Assistant. On the first phone I will make the call and interact using the speaker/microphone. The second phone will interpret via it's microphone and read back my translations over its' speaker that can be relayed to the first phones speaker/microphone in the other language.

Carrying extra weight and space consumption is always a concern so I wanted the smallest, lightest and even cheapest phone I could find for phone #2. I don't care much about its camera or other smart phone perks. Just a screen I can read and capability to access the Google Assistant or Translate via wifi. I was able to find a phone "BLU Advance L5" which seems to fit the bill. Failry recent Android version 8.1, is around 100g in weight and smaller 4" footprint. Seems to have pretty good battery life. Retails for around $40-$50 on AMZ. It doesn't care what the first phone is, as long as it has a speaker, so a good cheap solution for iphone users (as their prime phone) too.

Sorry for the lenghty post. Will post again my findings/experience once I hit the GR65.
 
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Camino Del Estrecho, Ruta Fray Leopoldo,
Vía Serrana, Camino Francés
In a month I'm heading for a 2 1/2 month "best of the Podienisis GR 65" and Camino "whatever tickles my fancy". One of the challenges on previous walks has been the ability to converse on the phone in either french or spanish. Since this year is an outlier and requires booking accomodation in advance (especially on the French routes) I want to be able to have instant translation over the phone when a bilingual camino buddy or helpful host is not readily available.

Everyone loves Google translate, whether using for conversations, reading signs, menus or printed media. It is awesome. It especially works well for offline use. It is even better when connected and you can use the Google Assistant (which Google Translate is now baked into) and tell Google to "act as my translator"... good stuff. Where it falls down is during an actual phone call whether via the dialer or whatsapp etc. So this year I'm trying the "two phone" approach.

What it means is carrying two phones. My main phone with local SIM is the heavy lifter for calls, emails, guides, maps, photos, videos, wifi etc. The second phone will act as the interpreter. The first phone will have a wifi hotspot created and the second phone will use it for access to Google Assistant. On the first phone I will make the call and interact using the speaker/microphone. The second phone will interpret via it's microphone and read back my translations over its' speaker that can be relayed to the first phones speaker/microphone in the other language.

Carrying extra weight and space consumption is always a concern so I wanted the smallest, lightest and even cheapest phone I could find for phone #2. I don't care much about its camera or other smart phone perks. Just a screen I can read and capability to access the Google Assistant or Translate via wifi. I was able to find a phone "BLU Advance L5" which seems to fit the bill. Failry recent Android version 8.1, is around 100g in weight and smaller 4" footprint. Seems to have pretty good battery life. Retails for around $40-$50 on AMZ. It doesn't care what the first phone is, as long as it has a speaker, so a good cheap solution for iphone users (as their prime phone) too.

Sorry for the lenghty post. Will post again my findings/experience once I hit the GR65.
@dgallen, thanks for sharing such an interesting idea! I hope you will get a lot of replies from others who are either wanting to try out your system or have figured out one of their own. Have you been able to try it out to see how it works?
 

dgallen

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (6), Primitivo(3), Finisterre/Muxia (3), Aragones, Norte, Portuguese, Camino del Rey
@dgallen, thanks for sharing such an interesting idea! I hope you will get a lot of replies from others who are either wanting to try out your system or have figured out one of their own. Have you been able to try it out to see how it works?
I've tried it using two (2) Android phones I have (Google Pixel 4 and Google Pixel 6) and it works great in my initial tests. The Google Pixel 4 will be my Phone #1 in France/Spain... it has a great camera and smaller size and weight over the Pixel 6. I don't want to take a heavier phone as my Phone #2, so am waiting for my 100g and very small BLU Advance L5 phone to be delivered from AMZ in the next couple of days. Hopefully the microphone and speaker are up to snuff on it, since it will have to be interpreter of what it hears from phone #1 speaker.

My use case in France would be to call the gite I want to reserve via my main phone#1, which has the SIM and a wifi hot spot that can be accessed for phone #2. Sometimes people don't like speaker phones so i will call via the normal dialer and say, " Salut, je suis sur le GR65 et je veux réserver un lit. Puis-je accéder au haut-parleur de mon téléphone et utiliser Google Traduction" ? This translates to: "Hi I'm on the GR65 and want to reserve a bed. Can I go to my phone speaker and use google translate"? I'm okay reading and speaking a script in French (school french in Canada 50 years ago), but get all flustered when hearing french spoken rapidly, especially on the phone.

Once I turn my phone to the speaker mode, I will state my request via voice in english to phone #2, which will translate and transcribe my english to french. On that phone I push a button and it will speak my question in french over it's speaker that gets relayed to the speaker/microphone on my Pixel 4 main phone. The response would come back in french over the Pixel 4 and be interpreted by the 2nd phone which will transcribe to english text which I can read on it... and on it goes.

The real proof is in the proverbial pudding, so we'll see how it all works in the real world and on Camino/Chemin. If it doesn't work at lest I have a cheap under $50 backup phone that doesn;t take much to carry.
 
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trecile

Moderator
Staff member
Time of past OR future Camino
PAST - Francés, Norte, Salvador, Portuguese
This is an interesting idea. Another option would be to use WhatsApp messaging and translate the messages. But I understand that you might want a more immediate response than you might get from a text message.
 

kiwi-couple

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019: Camino Frances
This is an interesting idea. Another option would be to use WhatsApp messaging and translate the messages. But I understand that you might want a more immediate response than you might get from a text message.
Is WhatsApp widely used in France? I have been wondering if it would be possible to use it on the Chemin du Piémont Pyrénéen.
 

MaxHelado

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portugués via Variante Espiritual 2022
Is WhatsApp widely used in France? I have been wondering if it would be possible to use it on the Chemin du Piémont Pyrénéen.
I think you'll find that WhatsApp is used widely in most European countries. I have noticed in recent years that more and more small hotels (and albergues) in Spain give a mobile phone number rather than a landline. Neither you nor they are interested in making local calls at international rates.

Also checked with my sister who has had a house in France for 30 years and who tells me it is just the same in France as it is in Spain. Almost every business will advertise or offer a mobile phone number so you can contact them by WhatsApp.

I use WhatsApp messaging as my #1 method for booking a bed anywhere. My Spanish is not too shabby but texting a) allows me time to get it right (using Google translate) b) gives me time to check that I understand the reply c) gives me a written record of the reservation and d) means the hotel/albergue gets the full price of the booking (and not an intermediary)
 
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lt56ny

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
10/22 Aragones/Frances
In a month I'm heading for a 2 1/2 month "best of the Podienisis GR 65" and Camino "whatever tickles my fancy". One of the challenges on previous walks has been the ability to converse on the phone in either french or spanish. Since this year is an outlier and requires booking accomodation in advance (especially on the French routes) I want to be able to have instant translation over the phone when a bilingual camino buddy or helpful host is not readily available.

Everyone loves Google translate, whether using for conversations, reading signs, menus or printed media. It is awesome. It especially works well for offline use. It is even better when connected and you can use the Google Assistant (which Google Translate is now baked into) and tell Google to "act as my translator"... good stuff. Where it falls down is during an actual phone call whether via the dialer or whatsapp etc. So this year I'm trying the "two phone" approach.

What it means is carrying two phones. My main phone with local SIM is the heavy lifter for calls, emails, guides, maps, photos, videos, wifi etc. The second phone will act as the interpreter. The first phone will have a wifi hotspot created and the second phone will use it for access to Google Assistant. On the first phone I will make the call and interact using the speaker/microphone. The second phone will interpret via it's microphone and read back my translations over its' speaker that can be relayed to the first phones speaker/microphone in the other language.

Carrying extra weight and space consumption is always a concern so I wanted the smallest, lightest and even cheapest phone I could find for phone #2. I don't care much about its camera or other smart phone perks. Just a screen I can read and capability to access the Google Assistant or Translate via wifi. I was able to find a phone "BLU Advance L5" which seems to fit the bill. Failry recent Android version 8.1, is around 100g in weight and smaller 4" footprint. Seems to have pretty good battery life. Retails for around $40-$50 on AMZ. It doesn't care what the first phone is, as long as it has a speaker, so a good cheap solution for iphone users (as their prime phone) too.

Sorry for the lenghty post. Will post again my findings/experience once I hit the GR65.
This is an interesting idea. Another option would be to use WhatsApp messaging and translate the messages. But I understand that you might want a more immediate response than you might get from a text message.
Whatsapp makes things so much easier. It also negates the need to carry a separate phone. Just add the albergue/gite to your whatsapp app. First thing I would do if you can't speak the language is send a message first. Use google translate and write something like I would like to make a reservation for tonight (how many people etc). I have to use google translate. Please respond back very simply if possible. Copy and paste their reply in google translate then write in your answer and continue on.
If there is no initial response I would write in google translate something very simple like I cannot speak Spanish/French. Do you have Whatsapp? Speak it as slowly and clearly as you can. The most likely answer will be yes. Then continue on. Good luck
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I will be very interested to hear the results of the two-phone translation approach.

I share some of the other members’ enthusiasm for WhatsApp, but I don’t know how popular it is in France. (In Spain, as of 2015, 98% of Spanish smart phones had it, according to El País.) In fact, there are some hoteliers in Spain who don’t answer their business cell phone and just take whatsApp messages. But I have no idea how prevalent a practice that is.

I personally would consider the benefits of using WhatsApp, because that will give you a written record of what you have reserved, price, date, etc. That can be helpful in case of linguistic mix-ups. Anyone who is in the business of renting rooms will be able to respond to a message with name, date, number of beds requested, even if it’s not sent in their native language. But as I said, I am not sure about France, so maybe the phone option is better in that country.

Good luck with this project!
 
Time of past OR future Camino
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@dgallen, what you intend is certainly one way forward.

And @MaxHelado has another that better suits me as one with hearing loss.

When face to face when neither had the language of the other, I set up two Google translate pages on my large screen tablet/phone

One was English to French. I would use this page.

The other was ... for the gite owner to use

Over three weeks in France this arrangement was only needed twice. On both occasions amusement for both of us and aural bliss for me. And not needed at all in Spain.

@dgallen , to you I say, kia kaha, kia maia, kia mana'wa'nui (take care, be strong, confident and patient)
 

dgallen

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (6), Primitivo(3), Finisterre/Muxia (3), Aragones, Norte, Portuguese, Camino del Rey
I will be very interested to hear the results of the two-phone translation approach.

I share some of the other members’ enthusiasm for WhatsApp, but I don’t know how popular it is in France.

I personally would consider the benefits of using WhatsApp, because that will give you a written record of what you have reserved, price, date, etc. That can be helpful in case of linguistic mix-ups. Anyone who is in the business of renting rooms will be able to respond to a message with name, date, number of beds requested, even if it’s not sent in their native language. But as I said, I am not sure about France, so maybe the phone option is better in that country.
To all those that mention their enthusiam for Whasapp, I agree 100% and it is part of my communication arsenal while traveling and my usual goto. I mentioned it in my original post as installed on my phone(s). Unfortunately not everyone uses Whatsapp and even if they do, it is a reactive platform and responses may not be as quick as wanted during extremely busy times (as may be the case on the Chemin in September or Camino in October. I may want realtime responses so I can phone around if necessary as beds fill up. The two phone approach gives me more options. Sometimes when walking in the mountains or extreme rural areas I may have spotty reception too, so the need to use while the signal is available now may be desired.

If calling a taxi, not all taxi drivers use whatsapp or similar apps that require texting while driving, so having a voice option sometimes desired. Usually signposts along the way only show the phone number only and even if the driver does have Whatsapp installed, he may only respond via voice and then you have the translate issue. Ifthe driver does have Whatsapp installed and you can get them to stop and text, then no problem... use Whatsapp.

I'm doing my first week of bookings for the Chemin now (via email or website first) and in 50% of the responses I get an email response to call with phone number. There is no option offered for Whatapp. Not saying they don't Whatsapp, or I can find the address via a Whatsapp search, but rather it was not offered as an option by the gite initially.

Regarding creating a written record, Google Assistant and Translate actually create a transcript for the whole translated conversation and save it for 3 days. And of course Whatsapp creates a permanent record too.

Whatsapp makes things so much easier. It also negates the need to carry a separate phone. Just add the albergue/gite to your whatsapp app. First thing I would do if you can't speak the language is send a message first. Use google translate and write something like I would like to make a reservation for tonight (how many people etc). I have to use google translate. Please respond back very simply if possible. Copy and paste their reply in google translate then write in your answer and continue on.
If there is no initial response I would write in google translate something very simple like I cannot speak Spanish/French. Do you have Whatsapp? Speak it as slowly and clearly as you can. The most likely answer will be yes. Then continue on. Good luck

One other commenter mentioned that using Whatsapp in conjunction with Google Translate only for translation, reduced the need for a second phone. Point taken. But I do like have many options available to me as possible. Especially userful for reducing the stress of instant knowledge to have a place to stay, so I can just enjoy the walk and take my time if I have not heard back via Whatsapp. Also taking a second phone is not such a huge burden. The phone I ordered is 100g, very small and will act as my backup should something happen to my main phone and carry my Canada home SIM. I've lost two cameras and two phones on previous caminos or extended trips, so just another piece of mind.

Should be an interesting experiment and of course will post my results as the completion of my little walk(s) in November.
 
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MaxHelado

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Portugués via Variante Espiritual 2022
To all those that mention their enthusiam for Whasapp, I agree 100% and it is part of my communication arsenal while traveling and my usual goto. I mentioned it in my original post as installed on my phone(s). Unfortunately not everyone uses Whatsapp and even if they do, it is a reactive platform and responses may not be as quick as wanted during extremely busy times (as may be the case on the Chemin in September or Camino in October. I may want realtime responses so I can phone around if necessary as beds fill up. The two phone approach gives me more options. Sometimes when walking in the mountains or extreme rural areas I may have spotty reception too, so the need to use while the signal is available now may be desired.

If calling a taxi, not all taxi drivers use whatsapp or similar apps that require texting while driving, so having a voice option sometimes desired. Usually signposts along the way only show the phone number and no Whatsapp address.

I'm doing my first week of bookings for the Chemin now (via email or website first) and in 50% of the responses I get an email response to call with phone number. There is no option offered for Whatapp. Not saying they don't Whatsapp, or I can find the address via a Whatsapp search, but rather it was not offered as an option by the gite initially.

Regarding creating a written record, Google Assistant and Translate actually create a transcript for the whole translated conversation and save it for 3 days. And of course Whatsapp creates a permanent record too.



One other commenter mentioned that using Whatsapp in conjunction with Google Translate only for translation, reduced the need for a second phone. Point taken. But I do like have many options available to me as possible. Especially userful for reducing the stress of instant knowledge to have a place to stay, so I can just enjoy the walk and take my time if I have not heard back via Whatsapp. Also taking a second phone is not such a huge burden. The phone I ordered is 100g, very small and will act as my backup should something happen to my main phone and carry my Canada home SIM. I've lost two cameras and two phones on previous caminos or extended trips, so just another piece of mind.

Should be an interesting experiment and of course will post my results as the completion of my little walk(s) in November.
I don’t even know what a WhatsApp address is. They give me a mobile number and I send them a WhatsApp.

I must add that in my humble opinion, Google Translate is far from infallible. If you translate English to Spanish and then Spanish to English using GT, you have a high risk of losing the meaning.

In my experience it is always better to message in your native language which is (hopefully) 100% accurate. The hotel/albergue can then play with Google Translate (other software is also available) and then reply in their first language. The risk of misunderstandings is greatly reduced.
 
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dgallen

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (6), Primitivo(3), Finisterre/Muxia (3), Aragones, Norte, Portuguese, Camino del Rey
I don’t even know what a WhatsApp address is. They give me a mobile number and I send them a WhatsApp.
Not an address in the physical sense... just a logical link between the Whatsapp application and smart phone # where both parties have Whatapp installed. Notice on Whatapp when first configuring, it asks for a phone number to link to, which acts like a unique address for indexing and tracing. If someone gives you a phone number and they don't have Whatsapp installed or this phone number linked you won't be able to reach them via Whatsapp.

Unlike a VOIP like Skype or Google Voice you are not really calling their phone number, but rather communication between the Whatsapp application at both ends. If the "called" party at the other end is offline, they won't receive an indication (i.e. ring)of an active call, but rather missed call notification whenever he/she comes online.

Regarding sending a message in english and having the called party doing the translation, in this case french, this can sometimes be seen as an insult in some countries. Living in Canada which is bilingual french/english language country, I know how my non attempt to converse in the called parties language is perceived (and request often ignored). So I much rather translate in the other language using a translator like Google (which is actually pretty darn good) and add that I'm using a translator and apologies for any small inaccuracies in translation.
 
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kiwi-couple

Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2019: Camino Frances
I think you'll find that WhatsApp is used widely in most European countries. I have noticed in recent years that more and more small hotels (and albergues) in Spain give a mobile phone number rather than a landline. Neither you nor they are interested in making local calls at international rates.

Also checked with my sister who has had a house in France for 30 years and who tells me it is just the same in France as it is in Spain. Almost every business will advertise or offer a mobile phone number so you can contact them by WhatsApp.

I use WhatsApp messaging as my #1 method for booking a bed anywhere. My Spanish is not too shabby but texting a) allows me time to get it right (using Google translate) b) gives me time to check that I understand the reply c) gives me a written record of the reservation and d) means the hotel/albergue gets the full price of the booking (and not an intermediary)
Many thanks, this is very encouraging.
 

RosemaryMcG

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2016 León a Santiago de Compostela
Decided to do a little research regarding this issue. I speak Spanish at an upper intermediate low advance level but on the phone it can still be quite difficult. Having a flowing conversation is key and difficult to achieve with translations from Google Translate which while it has gotten better is far from being really effective. I rarely would use GT. But as I said I did a little research and found a service available 24/7 with internet connection called Ablio Telephone Interpreters. Google for their website. I haven’t used it but I would suggest that this would be a far superior method of communication. It seems you can have the Interpreter call the number you want and act as a good between. Yes it costs I think 1.58 per minute but when I think of buying a second phone I would think you likely would spend less. Even as a backup this could be useful. Now the question is how good is there service. If you have used them please tell us how it went. There are likely other services but this is the first one I came across. There are also physical real time translation devices but if they use GT or computer generated voices I would stay clear. Let me know what you think.
 

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