August 10, 2010 | Andy Boxall
The middle of August is fast approaching and the peak holiday season is in full swing, so are you about to head off to foreign climes for a much needed break? If you are, and you’re going to a country where you don’t speak the native language, chances are you won’t want to incur a massive bill for using your phone’s data plan to check your email. But how do you ask someone if you can access the Internet from their computer if you don’t speak their language?
This, and many other questions, are covered inside Travel Interpreter (iTunes link), an iPhone application ideal for those difficult moments abroad when you really need something, but can’t find someone who speaks your language. For example, let’s say you’re off to Italy and there is a public computer in your hotel’s lobby, so you approach the desk armed with your iPhone and Travel Interpreter.
Here you have a choice of what to do next. The application textually provides a phrase in English and then the translation into the local language, plus if the language is based on a different alphabet, a phonetic translation too. You can have a go at reading it, or you can actually play an audio clip of the phrase spoken by a native speaker, then repeat it parrot-fashion or even let them listen to the iPhone without you saying a word!
There are 24 languages covered by the app:
We think that covers pretty much any country you’d be planning a holiday to and a few more besides, plus with many different sections containing 2100 phrases on anything from checking to make sure it’s OK to take pictures in a museum to questioning whether your restaurant bill was added up correctly, we don’t imagine you’ll be stuck in many situations where the app won’t come in handy!
The menu system is simple and there are very few options to flick through before you get to the phrases; essential if the app is to be useful, as fiddling about on your phone for ages could result in some very odd looks if you’ve got someone waiting!
The audio clips are a mixture of male and female voices, all very clearly native speakers, and these represent the most important part of the application, otherwise it’s just a digital foreign phrase book. If you’re proficient at languages and perhaps already know one of the core languages here, then you may be able to pick up the longer phrases quickly, using the application almost as a learning tool. However, if you don’t speak any other languages aside from English, repeating anything more than the single words or very easy phrases will be tough.
The native speakers make the app realistic, but they also speak naturally, and therefore quite quickly to the untrained ear, so if you want to have a go yourself you’re going to need to listen very carefully, a lot, before you pick it up. I hear one of the included languages everyday and also speak it to a basic level, but on some of the more complex audio clips, recognizing individual words was still difficult!
For this reason, many may prefer using Travel Interpreter as a way to communicate their wishes without actually speaking and that’s fine, as it performs this task well.
There are more than enough phrases on a wealth of different subjects in Travel Interpreter to make life easier, and probably a little bit more fun, when on holiday. At first glance it may seem a little on the expensive side at $9.99/£5.99*, but as you’d probably pay that for a decent phrase book anyway, this becomes a viable alternative, especially as it’s really 24 phrase books in one!
*This price is listed as currently being 50% off the regular price.