Being a stranger in a strange land can be fun for a while – right up until you order the
special and wind up with a plate of live squid or you hop on a train to get back to your
hotel and wake up in another country. While most people will struggle to use pocket
translation books (populated by ridiculously tiny print) modern technology can make your
trip a little easier with a slew of translation apps. Here are a few of the best.
- iTranslate. Okay, let’s be honest: this app is free to download but a lot of the
features will require payment (at prices of $0.99 to $1.99 a pop). That said, there is a lot
to love about this translation application, which features 50 languages (20 of which have
spoken translation), a dictionary, speech-to-speech mode (handy for conversations), and
options to save phrases. It may cost you a bit for some of the neat features, but even
without them you get a basic translation tool that’s better than most of the offerings out
- Word Lens. Many travelers know the frustration of looking at signs in foreign
countries and having no idea if they’re giving you directions to your hotel or offering you
a bowl of fried rice. This app lets you take pics of signage in order to have it translated.
It doesn’t have a lot of language options yet, and although the app itself is free you will
have to pay as much as $4.99 for each one you download, but the upside is that you
only need to buy the languages you want to use, rather than shelling out for a program
that comes with dozens that you’ll never need. And the first time you use it to read a
menu in France or a train schedule in Spain it will be worth every cent.
- SayHi Translate. This app will cost you $2.99 up front (although you can
sometimes find it on sale for as little as $0.99), but it comes with 33 languages, 24 of
which provide speech recognition (you say “hi”, it translates to your language of choice),
while the other 9 will still speak back to you. And reviewers rave about how simple it is
- Speak Text. This is one of the most expensive translators at $19.99 for the
full version (yeah, the download is free, but you’ll only get extremely limited features).
However, considering that you can use this app to translate not only spoken words and
phrases, but also entire documents or web pages in other languages (albeit sentence by
sentence), it’s a pretty handy tool. With over 30 languages available (20+ with spoken
components) and the ability to copy and paste any text for translation, you’ll no doubt get
your money’s worth if you have frequent translation needs.
- Google Translate. With more than 60 languages and a 4.5-star rating in iTunes,
this might just be the best translation app for your favorite mobile devices. But there’s
a lot more to it than simple variety. The program offers both text and audio features,
so you can type or speak phrases in your native language, read the translation on the
screen, and hear it spoken so that you can master the proper inflection. And for times
when there’s no handy WiFi or cell tower, you can save your faves for quick access or
search your history to recall a previously searched phrase. So whether you’re traveling
to China, Turkey, Beirut, South Africa, or any number of other locales across the globe, this free app will help to ensure that you can navigate your destination with ease.