The so-called ‘Google of Russia’ Yandex has rolled out a new update to its translation app this week, bringing offline access to its users around the world.
While Google Translate already features offline mode for translations on Android, the iOS incarnation requires connectivity. So with Yandex.Translate for iOS, the Russian internet giant is could be looking to one-up its Californian counterpart.
For now, offline mode works for five language combinations – English-German, English-French, English-Italian, English-Spanish and English-Russian. So, if an English-speaker travels to France, they’ll only need to download the one translation database for that language. If they then travel to Italy, they can delete the French one, and install Italian, thus ensuring they make best use of their available local storage.
As with Google Translate, Yandex uses statistical machine translation to power its service, which basically means it trawls and indexes parallel texts on the Web. In other words, it seeks out texts and phrases that have already been translated, and compares them with the original and ranks them accordingly.
For offline mode, however, things had to be streamlined so that “only the most common translations remained”. So while the full, online databases may contain dozens of ways to translate a phrase, the offline mobile incarnation will only retain 10. Ultimately, it may mean it’s slightly less accurate in offline mode, though Yandex explains it did endeavor to find the “optimal database size that would retain an acceptable translation quality for offline mobile gadgets.”
As things worked out, Yandex figured this would be 500MB.
At any rate, Yandex’s updated iOS app is available now, replete with free offline access.