When it comes to working with a language other than your own, it might seem intimidating. Some languages are incredibly complex, making them especially difficult to learn. If you decide to use a translator, you have another issue: when it comes to translation technology, it can be tricky to find a tool that translates with as much accuracy as you might like.
All of this being said, using some tech for translating can be a step in the right direction if you’re looking for an easy way to communicate some of the basics. Idioms might make things difficult, and some more complex languages might not easily translate when using a machine translator, but the tech is pretty consistently improving, and it can be a huge help.
Translation technology is on a lot of peoples’ minds. Many different companies are working to come up with the newest and best tech that will help people translate through text or through spoken word. For instance, news recently broke that Amazon is interested in making Alexa capable of translating in real-time.
Read on to learn more about what’s currently available in the world of machine translation!
When you might use translation tech
There are many different times you could benefit from accessing a translator. You might want translation tech if you’re:
- Going on a trip
- Working with a document written in another language
- Communicating online with people who speak a different language
- Accessing a website in a foreign language
Some of your options
Since most people know about Google Translate, you might be thinking that is the only real competitor when it comes to translation. While Google Translate is top-notch, there are actually a lot of other apps, sites, and devices to help you translate another language. This means you can find the one you enjoy the most and that fits with your specific priorities. You can:
- Use an app
- Use a website
- Use a device
- Hire a real person
Before we get started…
You might have noticed the last item on the list above. It’s important to note that translating with a device or an app just isn’t going to be as accurate as relying on a human interpreter or translator. If you’re looking for a high degree of accuracy, you should probably skip the tech and hire a professional.
To get started learning more about translators and interpreters, you can look into the American Translators Association. The ATA has a search function that lets you search for people available for hire. They also explain what translators and interpreters do.
If you don’t need or want a professional human translator or interpreter, let’s move on to the tech!
Google Translate—The app version of Google’s translation service is one of the most popular apps in this list. You can translate with its 103 languages. There are even 59 languages available for offline translation. You can translate text from images (using the in-app camera), handwritten text, and during two-way conversations, and there are many more features. (Android, iOS)
iTranslate—This is another hugely popular translation app. There are more than 100 available languages. The free version has some customization options, different dialects, favorites, a dictionary, and more. In the paid version, you can translate offline in some languages, translate from voice to voice, and more. (Android, iOS)
Microsoft Translator—This translator from Microsoft has more than 60 available languages, and some languages are available to be downloaded and used offline. You can use the in-app camera to translate text in photos, and you can have multiple people involved in a conversation. You can also save translations, connect with Android Wear, and access a phrasebook. (Android, iOS)
Naver Papago Translate—This translation app is a particularly good one for those wanting to translate between English and some specific languages including Korean and Chinese. There may be only 10 languages, but the idea is that the translations will be more accurate because of the narrow focus. You can do things like use voice translation, translate text in images, and use a phrasebook. (Android, iOS)
TripLingo—TripLingo is a translation app with some nice extra features. You can do the typical things, like translate with text and voice, look through phrases, and check the dictionary. But you also can choose different levels of slang, learn about different cultures, use travel tools (like a currency converter), and even pay per minute to have a live translation done by a real person—plus more. (Android, iOS)
Waygo—This app is another one that has far fewer available languages but might be ideal in certain situations. This app is for translating in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. You can translate offline, use the camera to get translations immediately (without actually taking a picture), share translations, and with Chinese food name translations, you can even see pictures of the food. There’s a free trial, after which you have to pay for unlimited translations. (Android, iOS)
If you don’t want to download an app, just use a site!
Google Translate—Again, Google’s translator is one of the most popular. It can translate in 103 languages, and you can do things like upload a document for translation, translate a website, or even write by hand.
Bing Microsoft Translator—Microsoft’s translator has more than 60 available languages. You can translate websites, listen to your translations, share, and more. You can also take part in their Conversations between people who are using Translator on computers and mobile devices.
There are some devices you can take with you to make translating a little easier. Most of these are in-ear devices, including earbuds. Here are just a few devices available to you:
Bragi Dash Pro—The Dash Pro is a set of earbuds that pair with iTranslate. The earbuds work as typical earbuds, so they’re not solely for translation. With the Dash Pro, you have earbuds that are recognized to work well with the iTranslate app. If someone else also has Dash, you can both speak to each other using the translation capabilities without even having to use a phone. With others, though, you’ll have to use your phone to translate during conversations.
Google Pixel Buds—Like the Dash Pro, Google Pixel Buds are also multi-purpose earbuds that have translation capabilities integrated (if you have Google’s Pixel or Pixel 2 phone). You can use the Google Translate app to translate dozens of languages by holding down a button on the earbuds and saying what you’d like to translate. The other person can then respond using the app on your phone, and the translation will be spoken into the earbuds.
ili—ili is a handheld device that translates English into Mandarin, Spanish, or Japanese. It works offline, so you don’t have to be connected to use it. It’s also meant to hear your voice better than a translation app on a smartphone because of the microphones it uses. It is a one-way translator, which means you’re the only one who’s being translated, and you may have to rely on things like gestures and body language during a conversation.
Pilot—Pilot is an earpiece that can translate more than 15 languages. It uses noise-canceling microphones so it’s easier to pick up what’s being said, and you can share the earpiece with the other person in the conversation so you can communicate both ways. It currently doesn’t work offline, but this may not be an issue in most situations.