Google Translate, Camino, Ukraine

Mini Walking Stories: Google Translate

Did You Know That Google Translate Will Talk For You?

Google Translate, Camino, Ukraine

One morning on the Portuguese Camino, we met a couple from Ukraine who were living outside their home country when Russia started a war there.

Feeling helpless, they decided to walk the Camino to raise awareness about the war in their country.

Walking extra long days, they wore the Ukrainian flag on their backpacks, and stopped to tell anyone who asked about what was happening back home to their families and friends.

Olha, the wife, spoke perfect English, so everyone quickly gathered around her to listen.

But her husband, Ivan, was still learning English, and of course, none of us spoke Ukrainian.

But when you’re walking, you can’t all crowd around just the one partner who speaks English.

There were folks on either side of her and just in front and just behind, but some folks had to fall back and were not able to hear her.

Ted, who was with our group, had been using the speak feature on Google Translate already to talk to people, mostly in restaurants. He would talk into his phone and let the app translate and speak the request back in Portuguese.

So when he fell side by side with Ivan, he pulled out his phone and started using Google Translate to talk to him. I hadn’t really seen him use it for much more than to ask for a recommendation for wine or food, but Ted and Ivan talked back and forth for the entire stretch we walked with them, both of them speaking into the phone. They told each other about their families, their jobs, and their lives back home.

Even without smartphones, I am often amazed at how much of a conversation you can have with someone when you don’t share a language. You can get a lot across with body language, broken phrases and a version of charades.

But who knew we would one day be able to break through languages barriers with pocket-sized technology?

A few days later, the couple sent Ted a message. People had started to write messages and blessings on their flag, so they said we could add one as well if we liked. They would write it in for us. Diane sent back this message:

The Lord bless you as you walk the Camino telling others about your beloved country. You are keeping hope alive!

Later in the week, we rejoiced when they sent us a picture of their flag in the cathedral square in Santiago.

Mini Walking Stories is a project I’m doing this month to catalog a fabulous year of walking. During December, I’m inviting you to come along with me for a few minutes on one of the walks I took in 2022. Read more stories here.
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