Text to Translate

Translation service over SMS

2 minute read

2 min read

Smart phones are ubiquitous today but not so long ago a connection to the internet was beyond the average phone’s capabilities. This translation application works over one of the most primitive cell phone features: SMS messaging.

I built it using Twilio and Google App Engine.

The Story

While all of my friends were getting fancy iPhones, I held onto my “dumb” phone. The mobile app craze was in full swing but the extent of my device’s capabilities end at making calls and sending text messages.

Out of those constraints I decided to push the limits and augment its capabilities. If text messages can be received by a computer then they can be programmatically parsed then they can be responded to by other services around the internet.

How it works

Just text the bot a phrase (e.g. How are you? -> german) and get back the translation (en->Wie geht es dir?)

Using Google Translate, it automatically detects the original language. But if it doesn’t recognize the specified result language it texts back:

Sorry, chap! We cannot find that desired language in our system.

And if you don’t include the -> separator, it texts back:

Enter a phrase followed by the language you want it translated to separated by "->"
Eg: "Guten Tag! -> english" No, we can't translate texts from your parents.

The Demo

Send an SMS to (206) 855-3672 to give it a try and check out the code on GitHub!