Do you remember the phrasebook? You would be desperately leafing back and forth, trying to find out if the creators put ‘I need to use your bathroom’ under ‘basic necessities’ or under ‘emergency situations’. In the meantime, the other person is prattling away in their language. Apparently oblivious to the fact that since you don’t know how to spell what they’re saying, your phrase books are useless in finding out what they’re saying.
Thankfully, those times are long gone now. Now, with modern translation apps, not only do you not have to figure out some arcane classification system only understandable to the book’s author. You can even have them translate the other side’s words back to you. And though that sometimes does make things a little less adventurous – that can only be described as a good thing when that exotic food you tried last night is desperate to come back out again.
But there are a lot of choices out there. Which one should you go with? Which one will get you where you want to? And what – if you’re considering writing your own – are going to be the biggest competition? Here’s what’s out there:
It would be wrong to start anywhere else than with Google Translate. It’s the leader of the pack. And sure, it helps that they come pre-installed on a lot of the different phones and tablets out there. At the same time, few are the people who de-install it. Really, that’s not surprising. Google has been working hard on its language recognition and it shows.
It recognizes 103 written languages if you’re online, 59 if you’re offline and you can use the camera to translate written text – for example, bus schedules as well as food menus. Another very useful feature is that you can translate conversations between 37 languages. Check the link above to see what languages it supports.
The app is absolutely free – which is a nice bonus.
Microsoft’s alternative to Google Translate, iTranslate tries a different approach from Google. Instead of using a complicated neural network that tries it’s best at doing direct translations, iTranslate uses a more straight-forward approach where you can select multiple different options with the app offering a dictionary definition of each. This means that you need to do a bit more work yourself, but you’re more likely to get a more accurate idea of what is actually being said when you do. iTranslate offers 90 different languages, with a natural voice in an output for each.
This is a great tool if you’ve got some of the basics of the language down already as when you’re part of figuring out what is being said, your grasp of the language will improve in leaps and bounds.
The basic app is free, but it is supported by advertising. They’ve also put a limit on how many translations you can do. Both of these aspects can be turned off by going premium.
Take Easy Translator
The problem with machine translation is that it isn’t always accurate. Sometimes, the machine simply doesn’t get it and you’re at best with something that you can’t understand and at worst something you think you understand but don’t.
In situations like that, you need something like take easily to help you out. The idea here is that instead of connecting you with a machine, they’ll connect you with a living and breathing person, who will then do the translation for you right there and then.
Of course, this does mean it comes with a price tag. It can be manageable, however. For example, if you hang up within 30 seconds then you don’t get charged and you’ll get some free translation time every month.
This makes it a great app for when you want to be absolutely certain you understand something – say if it’s on a rental contract, the foreign ecommerce deal or if you’re talking with the police. For longer translations, you might be better of other quick translation services.
If you know where you’re going and it sounds a lot like ‘flapan’, ‘Kina’ or ‘Mouth Orea’ then you shave to take WayGo with you. This app is focused on translating a very limited number of languages but doing so exceedingly well. It directly translates texts and voice into English for you. This includes street signs. That’s a big deal because otherwise, you’re pretty much illiterate again.
Even better, it provides a lot of its function ability without you needing an internet connection. That means that even if you’re somewhere far away from the beaten path, you’ll still get your translations.
On the downside, they only give you ten translations per day for free. So, unless you’re willing to pay for the full package, you’re going to need another one of the translation services I mentioned to stay above water.
This one works a bit different from the others in that it’s mainly a tool for teaching you how to speak a language. Triplingo is all about making language-learning easy and giving you the phrases you need to start making your way around in a foreign country.
The tool is specifically designed so that the language you’re learning has different slang levels. In that way, you’ll know what you can say to your partner’s grandmother as well as the street kids who keep asking for change. It also gives you a crash-course in cultural aspects you’ll want to consider.
So, which one should you go with?
If I were you, I wouldn’t go armed with just one of these apps. Instead, your best bet would be to take several, use them interchangeably and see if you have one which you prefer over the others on offer. The great way of doing things that way is that you won’t end up paying for an app you never end up using.
Heck, you might even find that if you use them all together, you won’t have to pay at all! As soon as the free credits with one are over, you can simply move over to the next one. That, a decent memory, and the willingness to talk with hands and feet should get you out of any sticky situation you might get yourself into.
Margaret Reid is a freelance writer who is seeking to discover new ways for personal and professional growth. Currently she`s working in the company The Word Point and trying to improve herself in the blogging career. Margaret is an experienced and self-driven specialist who cannot imagine her life without writing.