Jan. 11, 2012 at 8:45 AM ET
I still cringe at that wasted day in Paris when my fractured French had me instructing my husband to ask shopkeepers for directions to the Bridge Museum (Le musée du Pont) instead of our real destination, the Museum of Bread (Musée du pain).
If only I’d been toting a smartphone or tablet loaded with one of these real-time translation apps instead of an outdated English-only guidebook.
Rob Grabarek, a spatial analyst from Seattle who just returned from Vietnam, is among the many travelers who swear by Google Translate. “I have a widget on my Android homescreen and the app on my iPod Touch,” said Grabacek. The free app handles text in 63 languages, voice input in 17 languages and text-to-speech in 24 languages.
Suzanne Rowan Kelleher, editor-in-chief at We Just Got Back, is intrigued by Word Lens. “You aim your camera at something, such as a sign in a foreign language, and it turns the words into English. It sounds super handy." The app can currently translate signs written in Spanish or French into English and those written in English into Spanish or French. Word Lens is available as a free download, but translation apps are $9.99 each.
The newest version of myLanguage's Vocre translation app features a split-screen, table-top mode that will facilitate translated conversations. “You place the phone between you and another person and tap the screen to have it hear you," Damien Dalli, myLanguage chief product officer, told msnbc.com. "Then you hit ‘translate’ and the person opposite you will see the words translated on their side of screen, across from you in the correct orientation, and hear a translation as well.” Dalli says version 2.0, currently in development, will be able to translate text messages and video calls as well.
Once downloaded, Vocre includes free, unlimited translations for the first 24 hours. After that, a week of translation service is $1.99; a month is $4.99.
Still at a loss for (translated) words? Other apps to consider include Jibbigo, which offers speech-to-speech translation in nine language pairs, including Chinese-English; SpeechTrans, which offers bi-directional speech recognition and translation; and Ortsbo, which promises real-time translation for chats in 53 different languages. (Pricing varies.)
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