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Tech

The 6 best translation apps for travelers

From interpretation of real-time conversations to instantaneous translation of images, these 6 apps make understanding the world around you a lot easier.

by Michael Carl Budd

Just because you didn't have the time to get some basic proficiency in a foreign language before you struck out on your international adventure doesn't mean you have to be completely in the dark navigating conversations, menus, signage, and the like.  These six mobile apps offer a variety of features — real-time conversation translation, instantaneous text translation that uses your smartphone's camera, voice-to-text, a slang-senitive translator, and more — sure to keep you out of trouble and in the know.

1
Google Translate
Free

The most popular translation site and app out there among English-language users, Google Translate supports over a 100 languages with its typed translation feature, half of which come with offline funcitonality.  Google continues to add more languages to its Word Lens feature, which allows you to hold up your smartphone to transform foreign words around you into your native language.  For many langauges, Chinese for example, the translations are far from perfect, but constantly improving.  If you're traveling in Western Europe or the Spanish-speaking world, Google Translate will definitely do the trick.

Google Translate
2
Waygo
Free

Waygo offers instant translation of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean into English with great offline functionality. For travelers to East Asia, Waygo beats Google Translate.  It's perfect for menus and signage, but what it won't do is allow you to enter text yourself or to translate English into another language. 

Waygo
3
Papago
Free

Papago is the perfect complement to Waygo.  It offers dictionary and translation support for Korean, Japanese, Chinese as well as a phrasebook suitable for a variety of common travel contexts.  Unlike Waygo and Google Translate, you don't get a feature for instantaneous translation of images.

Papago
4
iTranslate Voice
Free (with in-app purchases)

iTranslate Voice feels like something out of a futuristic film.  You simply talk into your smartphone and it'll speak on your behalf to someone who doesn't speak a lick of your language.  Functionality and language availability are variable, sure, but it's still really impressive.  

iTranslate Voice
5
Microsoft Translator
Free

Microsoft Translator packs in the functions: you can enter text, speak, or use a photo, much like you can with Google Translate.  In fact, after playing catch-up for a while, Microsoft Translator is pretty much on par with Google Translate, though they differ in the total number of languages offered.  One thing that Microsoft's app has over Google's is the ease of use and effectiveness of their real-time conversation feature.  iTranslate Voice may have them both beat, but if you're looking for an app that's the whole package, Microsoft Translator's not a bad choice.

Microsoft Translator
6
TripLingo
Free (with in-app purchases)

TripLingo's a lot more than just a translation app.  It offers language-learning tools, a currency converter, tips on local culture, and more.  One of the coolest features it offers is a slider that lets you move between different registers of the language — it pays as a traveler to know whether you're using slang or formal speech!  

TripLingo
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