An interpreter in your pocket

It’s holiday season again and us Brits are notoriously bad at speaking another language. So, unless you are one of those talented multilingual people, you’ve probably had that sinking feeling when you’re faced with something on holiday that you just don’t understand.

It may be that you’ve been presented with a menu that you simply can’t make any sense of or maybe you’ve parked your car next to a sign that you can’t read so you don’t know whether you have to pay or not. Or perhaps you need to ask your taxi driver to take you somewhere but he doesn’t understand.

Now apps for your phone could hold the solution to language barriers you face on your summer holiday. Some will translate written words for you while others will help you to hold a conversation in a foreign language.

For reading the language

WordLens made a big splash when it was released on iOS last year and now it’s available on Android too. It works by translating words that you’re struggling to understand, with the help of your camera lens.

Using your phone’s inbuilt camera, it recognises text that is viewed through the lens and then translates the words into English for you.

Available for French, Spanish and Italian, WordLens uses automatic translation software to transform it into the new language. Its super quick translation is then pasted over the original text.

Not every translation is grammatically correct but you still get a sense of what the original message was and the speed and accuracy of the software manages to make sense of simple signs or restaurant menus.

One of the developers behind WordLens explained: “It tries to find out what the letters are and then looks in the dictionary. Then it draws the words back on the screen in translation. The translation isn’t perfect, but it gets the point across.”

More languages are set to be introduced to the app, which costs around £3, and there could also be a reader for the blind, which would read the words aloud.

For Speaking the language

The English Translator app requires an online link to work and will be ideal for you if you’re holidaying in Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Holland, Portugal or Sweden. Not only are translations displayed on the screen for you, if you install speech engine, they’re also played audibly to save you the embarrassment of attempting a terrible pronunciation.

Tranzilla Translator is a similar app that is capable of turning the language of 50 countries into English text in super-fast time. A text-to-speech service is also available for German, Spanish, French and Italian so if you’re struggling to make yourself understood, this should help.

iTranslate speaks back to you in one of 31 languages if you simply tap the microphone on the screen and say the words you want translated. Not only is it useful once you arrive on holiday, it’s also good for teaching yourself some of the language before you go. So, whichever translation app you choose, it would seem technology really is turning the world into a global village.

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