This happened recently when we were given a gift copy of a book from a Japanese publisher. An accompanying letter, written in English, said that the book contained a reprint of an article by one of our faculty members. The letter mentioned the name of the faculty member but did not indicate which chapter was his. The book itself was completely in Japanese, so our cataloger had no way of knowing which chapter in the book was the reprint. We needed to know so that we could include that information in our catalog record for the book as well as update our internal database of faculty publications.
We were able to find a bib record for the book in OCLC with an ISBN search but it didn't contain a content note. After searching in vain in various places for a record that had a detailed content note, I remembered the Google Translate app on my phone. After opening the app and telling it I need to translate from Japanese to English, I took a picture of the chapter titles.
The app scanned the photo, looking for Japanese text. I was then given the option to select the text to translate or translate the entire page. Since I was looking for chapter titles and authors, I just selected those.
A preview of the translation was displayed at the top of the screen. I could tap through to see the full translation. When I saw the faculty member's name, I knew that I had found his chapter.
While the translation was not 100% perfect (the word "the" was missing from the title and the faculty member's name was misspelled) it was more than enough for us to recognize that we had located the reprint.
Google Translate allows for the downloading of translation files in all its supported languages. With downloaded translation files, the user can perform translations while offline. It also enables instant translation that show the translated text in situ, in real time.
In my experience, even though the instant translation is super cool to look at, it's not as accurate, especially when translating languages that don't use the Roman alphabet. As shown above, the title is not as accurate, nor is the author's name. However, instant translation will cycle through various possible translations.
The Google Translate app, while not completely perfect, can at least point catalogers in the right direction when they are tasked with cataloging materials in languages they don't know. It also has many other features that we have not begun to explore, such as text to speech, verbal translation, and the option to hand write text on the screen to translate.
Our cataloger is eager to try the app on a few Russian language books that have been sitting on her desk for a while. The app is certainly faster than tracking down a speaker of the language or trying to enter text in Google's web-based translation service.