When most of us started traveling, it was necessary to haul around an entire dictionary in the language (or languages) along your route. I remember browsing through bookstores, searching not for the best language dictionaries to take on the road, but the thinnest and lightest. It’s not a big surprise that they rarely delivered when I needed them (they were usually still in the hotel room).
Thank goodness for smart phones and all the apps they can store! Today, there are literally dozens of top-rated translation apps to use as international travel tools, but which to download? The answer will come down to personal choice and need, but any app worth your time will have at least two of the following three features.
1. Voice recognition: You may thing you don’t need it, but text-only translation means you will have to read it back to your audience. Do you really know how to pronounce each word?
2. Non-WiFi dependent: Many free language translators only work over a WiFi network. But will you be connected at every point along your trip?
3. Memory or storage: The best language apps allow you to save your conversations or at least store key phrases to call upon later.
Below, we’ve rounded up the best translation apps for iPhone and Android for your next vacation.
1. Google Translate:
One of the most dependable translation apps on the market, Google Translate is simple to use, straightforward, and best of all, free. You can translate words from up to 64 languages, and you can type or speak your words or phrases. Google Translate will then speak them back to you in the new language, eliminating the need for you to fumble verbally with unfamiliar words. You do need WiFi or roaming to use the app, but if you plan ahead, Google does allow you to store anticipated phrases ahead of time.
2. World Lens:
World Lens is unique among best translation apps in that it allows you to take photos with your smart phone of signs or any other written language, which it then translates. Especially helpful in airports, on busy streets, or in restaurants while ‘reading’ the menu, World Lens is quick, seamless, and WiFi is not required. The only downside: you cannot save and store your images to remind yourself what a particular sign meant later. It will cost you $4.99 for each language, but if you’ll only need a few on a given trip, it’s worth the expense.
Jibbigo is a speech interpreter, not simply a type translator, but it’s very easy and swift to use. You simply speak your phrase into the phone, and it audibly translates in a very natural voice. Your local language speaker then speaks back into the phone, which translates back again. Think of Jibbigo as having your own personal interpreter along for the ride. It does not require WiFi, and includes a basic dictionary function as well as typed copy of what it’s relaying aloud. Jibbigo will set you back a bit, however: each language is purchased individually for up to $13.99. But if it saves you time and stress, it could be a very sound investment.
iTranslate offers a very straightforward and easy to navigate layout and can translate into over 50 languages (many of them including a voice feature). Unlike many travel translation apps, iTranslate allows you to enter entire conversations of text at one time, if needed, and while it does need WiFi to work, you can store phrases and words to call up later. Best of all, it’s nearly free. Why nearly? Many languages come included with the free app, but a few do need to be bought.
For $4.99, Vocre brings you 31 languages (in text and voice). A nice feature includes the option to flip the phone 180 degrees for easier recording between two parties. There are no extra fees for language packages, but you do need to watch for ads that pop up when it’s least convenient. You’ll want Vocre or the aforementioned Jibbigo if you plan to be quite conversational during your travels.
Whichever translation app you download, consider adding at least one back-up (at least a free one) to your phone before you travel. Apps can get buggy, and you never want to be without any type of translation tool at your fingertips!
We’ve come a long way from the days of hauling around dictionaries in multiples languages while traveling. Technology makes it easy to read road signs and menus and converse in foreign languages during your travels. Whether your phone of choice is an iPhone or Android, there is a great translation app out there for you.
Do you use a translation app? Which works best for your travel needs?
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