First Look at Google Glass and Chinese

I’m pretty into geeky tech stuff, so I’m excited about Google Glass. On the new promo site, though, I noticed this strange photo:

Google Glass for Buying Vegetables in Chinese

My first thought was, “where can you buy vegetables in Chinese by the pound?” Must be in Chinatown in the U.S.

I showed this to my wife, and her immediate reaction was, “they wrote the in 豆苗 wrong.”

If you’re using Google Glass to buy vegetables in Chinese in Chinatown in the U.S., I’d imagine you’re setting yourself up for quite a language power struggle. Much better to use Google Glass to record your interactions as you learn Chinese by using it (and possibly while getting realtime help from Google Glass).

Wow, I would love for AllSet Learning to be a part of an initiative like that! We’ll see how long it takes us to get our hands on Google Glass and onto the streets of Shanghai…


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. I keep looking at 豆苗 in the photo to see how they wrote it incorrectly but I can’t see it. Does it have something to do with the stroke order? otherwise I don’t see what the difference is.

    • It’s an issue between writing 田 and 由. It could arguably just be a little sloppiness in the handwriting. I didn’t think it was a big deal…

      • It does appear to be just a sloppy writing error.. a “typo” perhaps? 🙂 hehe.. I’ve often wondered how typos might appear in Chinese, other than the obvious completely wrong character.. and this, with the short stroke at the top of the “field” radical, seems to be a good example..

  2. Oh, man – now that’s a homework assignment.

    What an incredible opportunity for real world practice. Very excited to see what people like yourself do with technology like this.

    On a related note, when speech-to-text gets good enough, this means live subtitles. How everything that comes with that affects language learning is really going to be something to see. For one, the need at memorize low-frequency vocab is pretty much eliminated. For most people anyway.

    The future is (almost) now.

  3. I agree this would be perfect for recording yourself in actual conversation then listening back.

  4. Yeah, that Google Demo was pretty mind blowing. Droolworthy, and gave me the distinct impression that I’m not skydiving or riding rollercoasters as much as I should.

    Also, in the photo above, you can see the price.. is clearly in USD (4.00).. as Jon suspected, so these images are taken from San Fran’s Chinatown (driving distance to Google Mountain View Head Office I guess).

  5. The site has this very quick page before the above picture. The promo actually is “ok glass, google, say half a pound in chinese”. This is overlaid over the picture. What you see above is actually what google is asserting will come back from the glass translation.

    A truly mindblowing demo would be to translate culturally reminding the wearer that the US imperial units are acceptable because they are currently located in San Francisco while giving a warning when outside the US using US imperial units.

  6. For English to Dutch translation, Google Translate has not yet figured out the SVO/SOV shift in Dutch. Chinese is quite a bit more difficult, to say the least, even before taking kouyu and accents into account. Live subtitles that are more useful than patience and a phrasebook are not going to happen in our lifetime. As someone who spent a lot of time on learning Chinese and makes money as a translator and interpreter, I don’t find this bad news 🙂

  7. 未来用Google Class 学中文是个好主意,在唐人街也许可行,但在中国能不能连接到网络还是个问题.

Leave a Reply