By Lauren Covello
January 26, 2017

Japanese is widely considered one of the hardest languages for Westerners to learn. Apparently, it’s been tough for Google to crack, too.

The tech giant announced Thursday that Japanese is now one of the languages that can be used in Word Lens, a feature in the Google Translate app that lets people point their phones at foreign writing for an instant translation. The move comes two years after Google first introduced Word Lens in 2015; that same year, it added 27 languages including Finnish, Thai, and Lithuanian.

The addition of Japanese is meant to help some of Japan’s 20 million tourists find their way around. “With Word Lens now available in Japanese, you’ll never have to worry about taking a wrong turn on a busy Shibuya street or ordering something you wouldn’t normally eat,” Google said in a blog post Thursday.

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Word Lens is a particularly useful feature for travelers, as it doesn’t require an Internet or data connection. A user just needs to open Google Translate and aim their phone camera at the signs, menus, or writing in front of them in order to get an instant translation on their screen.

Word Lens was originally a product of a San Francisco-based augmented reality firm called Quest Visual. Google bought the four-person company back in May 2014 and incorporated the technology into its existing Translate app.

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