Didn't pay much attention to your French classes in school? That might not be so much of a problem nowadays. Whilst English speaking travelers have a bad reputation for not learning the local lingo, as long as you've got a smart phone to hand you should be able to go more or less where you like and understand everything. Whether you're looking for directions or need to order from a local menu, being able to speak fluent French (or Spanish, or Greek, or anything else) really isn't a necessity. We do advise that you learn a couple of basics (hello, goodbye, please and thank you are a good start), but for everything else, you might want to check out some of these apps!
Before we get to actual apps, let's talk about mobile roaming. Using your smart phone abroad and having it connected to mobile data can get pricey and fast. Yes, mobile roaming prices within the EU have gone down, but they're still more expensive than at home. Many of the below apps require mobile data to work (though not all of them do), so your best bet is to use them over WiFi when you can. If you can't, then remember to turn that data off again when you're done to avoid a big bill when you get home!
Google translate is the grand-daddy of translation apps, and it's very, very good. Thanks to millions of people that correct translations every day, Google Translate is liable to get you the most accurate translation of whatever it is that you want. The interface is simple, you can translate from text or from voice, the app will even speak the words for you if you're not sure about pronunciation. It will even translate from inside apps (letting you translate web pages on the go), and in some instances from pictures as well, so you can snap a pic of a sign and get a translation. Google Translate is free, and you can use it offline though you'll need to download a hefty language pack in order to do so and some functions may not work.
If you're looking for something that you can truly use offline, then Microsoft Translator is the app for you. You'll need to download the app and then download the language pack that you need, but after that, no mobile data will be necessary. You can translate by typing into the given box or by speaking a word, and there's two way translation as well. However, Microsoft Translator isn't great at voice recognition, and long text translation is very slow. But for on the go short translations with no internet necessary, then Microsoft Translator is a great download, as long as you want one of the 42 languages it supports.
We'll be honest and say that Translate Voice doesn't have the best or most accurate translations in the world, though it does a fair enough job, but it does have one key benefit. Translate Voice, as the name implies, translates speech, rather than writing, which is handy if you're in a situation where you can't really type (like actually having a conversation with someone). It's voice recognition function is second to none, and it effortlessly keeps up with what you're saying, though accuracy will also somewhat depend on the voice recognition software that's on your phone. Translate Voice is the best choice if you like talking to people, rather than for translating menus and the like.
iTranslate isn't quite as good as Google Translate, but it does have one great feature, which is the ability to save phrases for later use. This is handy for the everyday things that you'll need to use more than once, and is a big time saver. Other than that, there's a simple enough interface, and you can type or speak your translation, plus it supports eighty or so languages, which is a lot compared to some other apps on our list. It does require an internet connection though, and as of yet there's no off line option.
WayGo is for a very specific kind of traveller. If you're headed off to Asia, particularly Korea, China, or Japan, then you might want to consider downloading WayGo before you leave. Whilst Google Translate does allow you to take pictures of text and decode it, it doesn't work for pictorial languages like Chinese, Japanese and Korean, but WayGo does. The only downside is that the free version is limited to ten translations a day, if you need more than that then you're going to have to pony up £4 for the unlimited version.
You might not want all the fancy bells and whistles that come with some of the above translation apps, so we've got a couple of simple options to choose from as well. The first of these is iHandy, which is pretty much as basic as it gets. Type a word in the box, select a language and it's translated. The app doesn't work well with whole phrases, but it's more than enough to get a quick word that you need. This is probably best if you already have a smattering of the local lingo and just need a bit of help every now and again.
Easy Language Translator
Our other simple option is Easy Language Translator, which is just as easy to use as iHandy, with two buttons and nice, large text size. However, Easy Language Translator does do a better job of translating whole phrases, and also includes a sound option so you can hear pronunciation if you happen to need it (though you could just show the clear, easy to read screen to someone else). Translations are fast, though not always perfectly accurate, making Easy Language Translator a good choice for translating, say, a menu.
Wherever you go, however long you're staying, with your smart phone along and one of these handy translation apps, you'll never need to worry about that language barrier again. Just download before you travel to save on mobile roaming charges!
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