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The best translation apps

Getting ready for holiday. Hideously poor at foreign languages? Take a look at our favourite mobile translation apps. We’ve covered both reading and speaking, and have tried to find the best translation apps across all phones. Sadly, you’ll find most of the best ones are all on the iPhone or Android.

Word Lens (iPhone) is one of those augmented apps that screams: “This is the future!” Currently only available for Spanish to English, and the reverse, Word Lens uses the iPhone’s camera to scan for Spanish text, and the phone does the work, changing the words into English before your eyes.

It’s simple and very, very intuitive- it has to be seen to be believed. We hope the guys behind this are already on their way to adding more languages soon. Note that although the app is free, the Spanish ‘file’ costs £6.99.

Jibbigo (Android, iPhone) has a whole database of phrases and words, there’s over 40,000 of them – all available offfline. Each language is available separately online. Although we noticed the Japanese-English app costs substantially more, typically each language costs around £3.

The best part of Jibbigo is how simple it is to use; with any voice-to-voice translation app there’s going to be some mistakes, but we were impressed by its ability to pick up and translate phrases.

iSpeak (iPhone) translates whatever you type into the first box, turning your sentence into a native-sounding translation. You’re able to save those core phrases you know you’ll need, and it’s available in several European languages including French, German and Spanish.

A translator app you may have already heard of, Google Translate (Android, iPhone) typically needs a data connection to work in the wild, but on your phone,  you can ‘star’ your most-needed phrases and they’ll be available offline

Pocket Translator is a Windows Phone 7 app powered by Google Translate. It also has its own offline history to avoid getting stung by data.

Travel Interpreter (Android) takes a picture-based approach of ensuring you’re using the right phrase. You can download several languages onto your phone, there’s a total of 28 languages available.

It’s another very easy-to-use app, and phrases and words will appear with a contextual picture, words written in both languages and audio.

Odyssey Translator Pro (iPhone) takes a different approach to translation with a building block approach allowing you to create your own sentences- hopefully with the right intonation.

Phrases are separated into useful (and often very specific) categories like taxi travel, map questions and, er, hot drinks.

Linguo is a bargain; packing in 25 different languages and 385,000 different entries with offline capabilities, if you find yourself travelling around several countries, this could be the best option.

Languages supported include Chinese, Korean French and German.

World Dictionary Instant Translator (iPhone) is another text translator but is compatible with a wealth of languages,including more difficult scripts like Chinese.

It may not have the augmented reality sheen of WordLens, but it could prove more useful.

The Lonely Planet Phrasebooks (iPhone) are the apps to go to for more… modern requests. Avoiding free (and dated) online dictionary entries, the Lonely Planet apps offer real native voices – ideal for the tonally deaf traveller.

They are a little pricier than other offerings, but your can be assured the stuff you’re going to need will be in here.


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