Google’s translation engine has impressed me ever since the first time I used it on the web, and its continual evolution only impresses me more. The latest in a string of updates to Google’s Translate app for Android adds handwriting recognition, allowing users to write out phrases instead of typing them. At the moment, only seven languages use this feature: English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish.

While most westerners can probably type out words and phrases a lot faster than they can write them (on a phone screen, anyway) the complex characters of Chinese and Japanese don’t cooperate well with keyboards formatted for languages based on Arabic characters. Obviously Android phones sold in Asia don’t have this problem, but if you’re traveling and using your phone for some technology assisted dialogue, it’s a great way to make it easier for the other party to respond. If the Google Translate team follows its regular patterns of behavior, more languages should follow in the next few months.

Of course, you’ll need some decent penmanship for Translate to be able to understand you. That can be a tall order on capacitive screens, where touch strokes have more in common with finger painting than calligraphy. This is the sort of thing that the Samsung Galaxy Note was made for, with its huge screen, S-Pen stylus and Wacom digitizer. You can download the latest version of Google Translate in the Android Market, whatever your screen size.

[via Android Police]