9 best translation apps for travellers
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Not multilingual? You don’t actually need to be when you travel abroad with these apps, all of which will help you read, speak and understand the language wherever your points and miles take you. With voice, text and camera translation, these apps break down language barriers — and some even work offline when you don’t have internet access. You’ll be able to order food, hail taxis and communicate with locals all with the tap of your phone, ensuring a stress-free, enjoyable experience when traveling abroad.
Here are TPG U.K.’s picks for nine of the best translation apps you can download today.
One of the most popular translation apps in the world, iTranslate has almost 300,000 ratings on iTunes and over 300,000 on Google Play — most of them four and five stars. There’s even a special version for Apple Watch so you can quickly translate on your wrist if needed. The basic app includes functions such as a phrasebook with predefined, useful phrases and translations in more than 100 languages. The Pro version (£4.99, features offline translation, website translation (including a Safari extension), camera translation, voice-to-voice conversations and verb conjugations. Download the basic version for free on iTunes or Google Play.
This app allows you to translate 103 languages by typing, with access to 59 languages offline. You can use handwriting (where you draw text or characters instead of typing) in 93 languages and camera translation in 37 languages (where you point your camera and snap for an instant translation of, say, a menu). Two-way instant speech translation is available in 32 languages. Google Translate is simple to use too, with icons at the top you can click on to draw, take a photo, speak or type. Download for free on iTunes or Google Play.
If you want to sound savvy abroad, TripLingo will help you communicate like a local as well as help you adapt to a new culture. You start by selecting a country (options are available from Nepal to New Zealand, Senegal to Spain, Indonesia to Israel and beyond) and downloading the pack for your desired destination. For example, if you’re heading to Spain, you’ll have a voice translator that will translate your voice into Spanish, an image translator, a selection of key Spanish phrases, a Wi-Fi dialer so you can make calls from abroad, and even a section about tipping, safety and cultural norms to ensure you’ll blend right in.
The phrase section is particularly ample, with sections on humor and fun, nightlife and even flirting, which you can download and access offline. A pro version with added phrases, a Wi-Fi call credit, a free call to live translator and audio lessons starts at £19.99 per month. Download the basic version for free on iTunes or Google Play.
Translate your voice into 90 languages and dialects with SayHi. The app allows you to record your voice and then translates it into the language you’ve selected. You can play your translation in the voice of either a woman or a man, and adjust the speed to your liking. If you’re in a noisy environment, you can also type in the app instead of speaking into the microphone. The app is only available when you’re connected to the internet through Wi-Fi or at least a 3G data connection. Download for free on iTunes and Google Play.
Specializing in Asian languages, Papago translates between English and Korean, Japanese, Chinese (simplified/traditional), Indonesian, Vietnamese and Thai, as well as Russian, German, Italian and Spanish. Translations are available in the form of text and voice, and you can also have a conversation using the app, where two people can simultaneously speak and have the app automatically translate the respective languages. Photo translation is available and there’s a dictionary and a phrase book, too. You can also download a special section just for kids. Download for free on iTunes and Google Play.
Translate text, voice and photos between English and over 60 languages with Microsoft Translator. The app is ideal for business travelers, with a multiperson conversation translation feature where you connect your devices and can actually speak with over 100 people at a time in different languages. The split-screen function lets you see a phrase while someone sitting across from you can read the translation. Language packs are available for offline translation. With translation guides and pronunciation help (the app is particularly useful for Chinese), you can also learn how to properly speak some of the phrases you’re translating instead of just relying on the voice function. Download for free on iTunes or Google Play.
Waygo only translates from English to and from Chinese, Japanese and Korean, but it can be a lifesaver if you’re stuck without Wi-Fi, as it’s available entirely offline. The app is best used with the instant camera — just point at signs and menus and then see your translation. Foodies will find Waygo particularly useful, as you can go into the food picture mode after translating a menu item to better understand what you’re about to order. The basic version includes 10 free translations per day, and the upgraded version, which includes unlimited translations, costs £6.99 for just one of the three languages or £11.99 for all three. Download the basic version for free on iTunes and Google Play.
Similar to SayHi, this app translates audio into 42 different languages, allowing you to ask a local for directions, tell a taxi driver an address or say pretty much anything else in another language. You record yourself talking and then your voice is immediately translated into your chosen language. You can record someone else’s response in their language, and the app will then translate it to your native tongue. You can also connect two devices and have easy back-and-forth conversations with someone who doesn’t speak your language. The pro version comes with a custom phrasebook, unlimited translations and transcripts and no ads for £9.99. Or, download the basic version (with limited translations) for free on iTunes.
If you’re willing to pay for a translation app and are interested in translating less common languages, consider Speak and Translate, which translates to 117 languages for text and 54 languages for voice. It integrates seamlessly with iCloud, allowing you to sync your translation history across all your Apple devices. You can also change the voice speed and select the gender you want to read your translations. Download and pay £4.49 per month or £34.99 per year (a short three-day or seven-day trial may be included) on iTunes.
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