With smartphones, we can look up information at the drop of a hat, wherever we are. One of the places where that comes handiest is in the area of translation. Whether you're trying to decipher the menu at an authentic Mexican restaurant or asking somebody in another city where the bathroom is, these are some of the best smartphone apps for translation.
1. Google Translate (free for iPhone and Android)
Google's translation service is still one of the best, allowing you to type in text and translate it to and from over thirty language. On every phrase you translate, you can click to hear an audio pronunciation. You can also attach Google Translate to your smartphone web browser and translate entire web pages into your primary language.
2. Word Lens (basic app free for iPhone and Android, individual language packs $4.99)
Word Lens offers a unique service in smartphone apps. Using your phone's camera, you can take a picture of what you need translated – perfect for signs or menus in other languages. You will have to buy each language pack individually for $4.99, but once you have it you can use it even without an an Internet connection, which means you can use it overseas without incurring huge data roaming charges.
3. AT&T Translator (free for iPhone and Android)
You don't need AT&T phone service to use their translation app, although you may incur extra data charges from your carriers. It's a voice-based app that translates between languages in real time. You speak into your phone, the app listens and translates, and then your friend hears the spoken translation of what you said. Your friend can then go ahead and do the same back to you. This allows you to have spoken phone conversations with someone who speaks a different language than you do.
4. Vocre (free for 24 hours on iPhone and Android, $1.99 a week or $4.99 a month after)
myLanguage's Vocre app makes your phone work as a tabletop translator. Simply place the phone on the table between you and the other person. After someone speaks, simply hit “translate” and the phone will provide both a written and spoken translation of what was said. Vocre 2.0 is currently in beta, but a myLanguage spokesman says text messages and video call translation will be a part of update.
We may not have a universal translator like in movies just yet, but these smartphones take us all one step closer. Download them today and try them out on friends or foreign language classes!
Jason Kane is a mobile application developer and avid tech blogger. Jason writes for www.SOASTA.com, an application performance testing service.