Planet of the Apps: A Guide to Quick Translation Solutions

Modified on by Amanda Moritz-Saladino

Best translation apps available

Guest post from Robert Davies: Robert Davies is Editorial Executive at London translation agency Quick Lingo.

You might think that working for a translation agency, I would be a little reluctant to endorse technology that gives you instant translations and answers to foreign language queries. Wrong! Translation services will always have their place for document translations and interpreting needs, where a professional can use their expert linguistic, cultural and industry-specific knowledge to deliver a translation customised to a client’s wishes and accurate to the finest detail. However, there’s going to be times when we’re out and about abroad and need a quick language fix at the drop of a hat – the sort where convenience is prioritised over meticulous accuracy.

The Best Quick Translation Apps

Here’s my pick of some of the best Apple and Android apps out there that are worth taking a look at before you depart for sunnier climbs this August:

  • Google Translate: The daddy of all translation apps, responsible for spawning a whole host of others.  Its simple but ingenious concept is entering text and receiving an instant translation (with audio option included) in any one of over 60 languages. You’ve probably been living under a rock for some time if you haven’t at least heard of it!
  • iTranslate: This little beauty from the brainboxes at Apple takes the idea of a basic instant translation and gives it a high-tech twist. The latest version uses voice recognition technology to translate whatever you choose to speak into the app into text or audio. What more could you want?
  • Babylon Translator: Those looking to learn languages in more detail may be interested in this one. Babylon translator gives you access to 75 language dictionaries on top of a standard translation feature for more lengthy chunks of text. The informative guides that accompany each language are especially useful.
  • Word Lens: I never get tired of using this app, even if I don’t particularly need to! Simply point your smartphone’s camera at printed words in Italian, French or Spanish, and voila – you receive a translation. You might get mistaken for a very boring tourist taking a picture of a sign or menu, but who cares?!
  • Lonely Planet Phrasebooks and Offline Translator: It was only a matter of time before companies like Lonely Planet entered the game with their own apps, although the famous travel book publisher has come up trumps with these. Phrasebooks covering a range of topics tailored to travellers and tourists are included in over 30 languages, and also check out the Offline Translator available in certain languages that gives you text/audio translations without the need for Wi-Fi.
  • Odyssey Translator Pro: Odyssey Translator Pro encourages a whole range of possibilities in contrast to many of these fixed push-a-button-and-thou-shall-receive apps. You can start building a phrase like ‘I would like to go to…’, and then the you are presented with a host of options of how to proceed according to category, like ‘the supermarket’, ‘restaurant’ (food), ‘airport’ or ‘taxi rank’ (travel). Smart, flexible, and a good way to pick up a language overall.
  • ProTranslate: If your basic translation needs are work-related then ProTranslate could well be what you’re looking for. Websites, emails and SMS messages are among the texts it translates – websites being the especially useful one, since many apps can’t handle it all in one go.
  • Olympic Translator: I had to throw this one in considering the Olympic fever that’s gripping the nation! There’s nothing new about Olympic Translator’s voice-to-text translations, but the app includes over 5,000 phrases commonly related to Olympics volunteering and emergency officials, which makes it a great deal more useful than a shameless Olympic cash-in.

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