You’d love to see the world, but fear holds you back. You’re afraid of being isolated in a foreign country, unable to speak the language. How are you going to communicate? Charades? Well, stop worrying , and book those tickets! Here are 7 futuristic translation apps and devices for travellers in 2016 to help you get your point across.
Best Translation Apps: Google Translate
When it comes to translation apps, Google Translate is obviously the elephant in the room — and for good reason. It supports more languages than the competition, and its comprehensive feature set makes it especially well-suited for travellers.
Languages: Google Translate offers varying degrees of support for 103 languages:
- Type to translate: 103 languages
- Offline support: 53 languages
- Instant camera translation: 29 languages
- Speech-to-speech translation: 32 languages
- Handwriting translation: 93 languages
See which features work with which languages here.
Cool Tricks: Translate signs, menus and other written content using your phone’s camera. Offline support for some language, plus excellent integration with the Android operating system for translating text messages and websites. Also, it’s free.
Best Translation Apps: iTranslate Voice
Got a smartphone? ITranslate Voice provides text-to-speech and voice-to-voice translation on both iOs and Android devices.
Cool Tricks: Translates what you say right after you say it. Some offline capabilities are available for specific languages. Save your most commonly used phrases in a personalised “phrasebook” for easy access.
Languages: iTranslate Voice supports 42 languages, but not all to the same degree. Find a comprehensive list of which features are available in which languages here.
iTranslate Voice doesn’t have as many bells and whistles as Google Translate. That said, this reviewer compared the two apps during a volunteer stint at a refugee camp. In his experience, iTranslate had better voice input and output. It’s definitely worth checking out!
Best Translation Apps: SayHi
SayHi is a “universal translator” for the iPhone, offering speech-to-speech translation in 43 languages and dialects.
Cool tricks: You speak, SayHi translates. The app claims 95% accuracy for voice recognition. According to LapTopMag, “The spare and straightforward interface makes this app appealing.”
Languages: These languages are included in the basic version of the app: English (USA), English (UK), English (Australia), English (India), Spanish (Spain), Spanish (USA), Spanish (Mexico), Spanish (Colombian), French (France), French (Canada), German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin (China), Mandarin (Taiwan), Cantonese, Korean, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Portuguese (Portugal), Portuguese (Brazil), Polish, Russian, Arabic (UAE), Arabic (Saudi), Arabic (Egypt), Finnish, Greek, Hungarian, Indonesian, Slovak, Turkish, Czech, Hebrew, Malay (no voice), Romanian, Vietnamese, Basque, Catalan, Hindi and Thai.
How to Get It: Download it on the App Store here.
The downside? There’s no Android app available, and SayHi does require an internet connection.
Best Translation Apps: WayGo
Traveling to Asia? Waygo instantly translates Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters with no data connection required.
Cool Tricks: Translates Chinese, Japanese and Korean characters using the camera on your smartphone. Just point, shoot and translate!
Languages: Chinese, Japanese and Korean to English
Best Translation Apps: TripLingo
TripLingo combines an interactive phrasebook with an instant voice translator, along with other useful travel tools like emergency information, a currency converter and a tip calculator.
Cool Tricks: TripLingo combines a translator with lots of handy extras. It includes language learning tools, cultural information, free international calls with wi-fi and more. The translator even has formal, casual and slang translations for commonly used phrases. Need additional help? The app can connect you to a real live human translator (for an additional fee, of course).
Languages: Full content is available for the following languages: Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, German, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Russian and Thai. Language line help is available per minute for 180 languages.
New Translation Devices for 2016: The ili
The ili is a wearable device that hangs around your neck and translates speech in real-time. You may remember ili’s unfortunate YouTube advertisement, which involved the founder using it to harass random Japanese girls for a kiss.
Poor advertising choices aside, it’s an interesting concept.
Languages: English, Chinese, and Japanese (eventually French, Thai, Korean, Spanish, Italian and Arabic will be added)
Cool Tricks: Speech-to-speech translation in real-time, no cellphone required.
How to Get One: Despite all the hype the demo generated, it’s not available to the general public yet. That said, if you’re in the travel business, you can apply to test one out now.
New Translation Devices for 2016: The Pilot
The “Pilot” is the latest wearable translation device to make waves in the tech world. It consists of two earpieces, one for each speaker, and an app.
Cool Tricks: Real time translation delivered right into your ear canal. Works offline. Also doubles as earbuds for your music.
It’s been compared to the BabelFish from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Languages: English, French, Spanish and Italian
How to Get One: Not available to the public yet, but join the waitlist here.
Are Translation Apps Worth It?
These apps may call themselves “universal translators,” but they aren’t. Not really. Have a choice between a trusted human translator or interpreter and a translation app? The human will always do a better job. Translation apps and devices are not 100% accurate. Please do not use them to negotiate business deals or legal matters in a language you are unfamiliar with.
That said, most travellers don’t have access to an interpreter. And most UK travellers don’t bother to learn much, if any, of the local language. For most of us, it’s a choice between amazing the locals with your technological savvy (even if the translations aren’t always right) and making a fool of yourself trying to communicate. If that’s the case? Embrace the future. Use an app!