Back in 2010, in the wake of Haiti’s earthquake, Nicole “Mac” McClelland, an American writer who doesn’t speak French, met a handsome French UN peacekeeper called Nico Ansel.
A year and a half later, and after one accidental break-up, when Nico mistakenly told Nicole after an early date that he didn’t want to see her again, they got married, thanks in no small part to help from Google Translate.
Armed only with a smartphone and an internet connection, Google Translate means that travellers, businesspeople and new arrivals in a foreign country can make connections with other people, wherever they come from and wherever they are.
Last October, 10-year old Amanda Moore passed a Google-Translated note to a new classmate, Rafael Anaya.
Rafael had just moved to California from Michoacán in Mexico and didn’t speak English.
The folded note read “Would you like to sit with me today?” Her mother posted on Facebook about how the two had connected despite their lack of a mutual language – and the post went viral. And Amanda and Rafael are now friends.
Google Translate and ice cream
Sometimes these are short relationships.
In Rio for the 2016 Olympics, gold medal-winner Usain Bolt was fresh from celebrating his 30th birthday, and used Google Translate to connect with local student Jady Duarte. That was a short-lived connection: Bolt’s girlfriend back in London was less than impressed when photos of their encounter hit the internet.
Google Translate can help start off significant relationships, too.
Bea Longworth, 36, works for tech firm NVIDIA, and frequently travels from her home in Oxfordshire in the UK to Munich.
That’s where her new German-speaking stepson lives – and Google Translate is helping them build their relationship despite the language barrier.
His Canadian grandparents, meanwhile, combine tech with more old-fashioned approaches.
Together they navigated Munich's Tierpark — a 99-acre zoo — “with only the aid of Google and emergency ice cream when things got tricky,” says Bea.