When I was eight years old, I remember preparing for my first trip to a country that spoke another language. My Dad purchased a CD-ROM language course in French, learning pointless phrases such as “I am Madame Burton’s gardener.” He would laugh at how ridiculous these phrases were, as they offered no practical assistance for our trip to France. Language tools have come along way even in the last two decades. Luckily travelers don’t have to pop in CD-ROMs to learn a thing or two about their destination’s language. Now you can throw these four tools in your pocket when you hit the road to knock down language barriers and make sense of destinations that are seemingly foreign.
Word Lens: If you have ever sat down at a restaurant or encountered a puzzling road sign on your travels in foreign lands, you know just how stressing it can be to have no clue what you are ordering or where you are headed. The Word Lens app aims to lessen the confusion. The app can translate printed words from one language to another by using the smartphone’s camera. Without need for a network connection, you can snap a shot of a road sign or a menu card in a foreign language and have it translated right then and there. The app must be used on printed text, as it doesn’t recognize handwriting. While free to download from the Apple App Store and Google Play, you must pay per language. The app comes equipped to translate text to and from Portuguese, French, German, Spanish and Italian.
Google Translate: Nomads looking for a comprehensive language app while traveling tend to download the Google Translate app. The app assists with translating over 70 languages. You can speak, type, write or a take a picture to translate. It also works while traveling even if you aren’t connected to the Internet. The app will translate pictures stored in your phone as well. The Google Translate app is free to download.
Rude Hand Gestures of The World: Toted as a “guide to offending the world without words”, the Rude Hand Gestures of the World book by Romana LeFevre and Daniel Castro shines a light on a very important part of lost in translation moments while traveling. The book illustrates rude hand gestures and deciphers their meanings across the globe. While not an app, you can either buy the paperback form or download the guide on the Kindle. The book is intended for “globetrotters looking to offend”, but it also might help you avoid creating offense by knowing which gestures to avoid in certain parts of the world. It also proves useful for translating hand gestures you might encounter on your travels.
TripLingo: While we can thumb through our dictionaries to search for the proper word to utter while traveling, we are usually butchering the language in the process. TripLingo attempts to lessen those poor pronunciation moments while traveling through lands speaking other tongues than our own. The app helps you overcome language barriers with its voice activation feature. You can say a phrase you want translated and have it repeated in the language of your choosing. This helps the traveler not only learn a new language but also look the part of a local. While free to download its most basic forms of Spanish, French, Italian, German, Hindi, Hebrew, Portuguese, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean and Castilian Spanish, you can also purchase the full language packs for your chosen language to gain access to all 1,200 phrases. The app is available for the iPhone and Android.
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