Our world is smaller than it ever has been thanks to modern technology. We can communicate around the globe in an instant, businesses easily straddle language barriers, and traveling overseas for work is as common as a crosstown commute.
For some the language barrier is a challenge to be avoided, while others want to learn to speak in whatever tongue their business requires. The five apps featured here are great for both categories.
1. Google Translate
Google’s translation app has several features that make it worth the space on your phone. You can type, speak, and even draw to get an instant translation. The drawing aspect is perfect for translating from Asian languages to western ones, but it’s hardly the most impressive feature.
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Google Translate really impresses with its instant visual translation capability. Simply point your camera at a sign, menu, or even handwriting, to get an instant translation right on your screen. It’s far from perfect, but that kind of augmented reality is the future of on-the-fly translation.
You can also download language packs in order to use the app without using data.
For those who want to learn a new language instead of just sidestepping the barrier with technology, Duolingo is a good mobile choice. The app is simple to use, the lessons are straightforward, and the app makes you speak to it, which reinforces good pronunciation.
iTranslate does the same stuff as Google Translate: you can speak to it or type in a word and get a translation in the language of your choice. What it does do differently is great for the person trying to learn a new language: it provides conjugation tables.
Like a lot of iTranslate’s features, all the conjugations aside from present tense are hidden behind a paywall. If you want an app to support your language learning and give you an assist while communicating it’s only $2.99 a month, which is a small price to pay for a veritable language-learning toolbox in your pocket.
If you want a plain interface that translates what you say into a different language and speaks it back then Vocre is what you’re looking for. Vocre bills itself as having a “tabletop interface” that lends itself to easy two-way translation. It’s also powered by Nuance (the company behind Dragon), so you can have confidence in its translation engine.
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TripLingo is more than just a speak-and-translate app: it’s an etiquette hub, a phrasebook, and a travel guide all rolled into one. It also features flashcards, quizzes, a word bank, and a whole bunch of other neat features, most of which are available without paying for the premium service.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one app for learning the basics, getting translation on the fly, and getting around in the country you’re traveling to you should check out TripLingo. You can download it on iOS and Android.