Google may be evil, but Google Translate is a good thing for backpackers, especially those of us that don’t have the best grasp of the local language. No harm in using the technology out there to be able to communicate with the locals.
In my case, it was after about 5 minutes of attempted communication with the owner of a Hostel in Juayua, El Salvador trying to establish what the deal was with the tour he was running to a spring/pool with an underwater tunnel, that it became obvious more help was needed for our conversation to succeed. We initially started out looking for a dictionary, and then looking up words in the dictionary, but it became obvious that would be a time consuming venture, especially since I wasn’t sure of how to spell the words he was using, and he no doubt was having the same spelling problems.
It was at this point that I noticed that we were standing in a room with a computer that had just finished being used, and was now free. So I gave him the “hold on a minute finger”, and proceeded to load up Google Translate on the computer. It took no more than a couple minutes of question and answer using Google Translate and we were able to sort out the time of the tour, meeting place for the tour, and the price of the tour. I was booked, and the tour was great. Even with my near death experience.
So, next time you’re in deep with language problems with the locals, don’t be afraid to locate the nearest computer, or, as is more common these days, locate your Smartphone, and let Google Translate sort out the language barrier and provide the translation. Keep in mind though, that the Google Translation tool is not a substitute for a language course, and the grammar has much to be desired.