If you have a knack for language, and you only travel to places and countries that speak languages in which you are fluent, the Google Tranlate app for iPhone and Android smart phones won’t be of much use to you. Other wise, it’s worth it’s 0.6 MB file size in gold.
I found it while standing on an overlook high above the Dordogne Valley where I met a tech-savvy New York couple. We were comparing our best travel apps, and they raved about Google Translate, so naturally I had to try it. It turned out to be the best tip I’ve gotten in a long time. For $4.99 at the iTunes store, it’s more than a bargain.
The app translates 57 languages, including Chinese, French, Bengali, and Maori. It will accept voice inputs and gives you both a spoken and written translation, nearly instantly. While it may not work well for lengthy business discussions, it’s an amazing tool for leisure travelers that just want to order a meal, book a room, or get directions. It’s totally intuitive, so you won’t have a learning curve. Just install it, touch the icon, choose your input and output languages, and go.
Don’t be persuaded by the ratings at the iTunes store, by the way. The app may not be perfect, but it’s a vital tool for international travelers. There are some cranky reviewers at iTunes, and maybe even some developers of competing products.
An important tip: The app requires data, so either buy an international roaming plan from your carrier (an expensive and limiting option), use it only on wifi networks (usually not convenient) or check out the article on unlocking your phone and using local prepaid services.