Do any of those translator apps actually work?


Traveling abroad is a rite of passage for every millennial. But becoming fluent in every European and Asian tongue is not. Enter: the internet, which says you don’t have to be fluent in anything other than English to navigate the globe. There are tons of translating apps you can download on your iPhone to get you chatting with a non-English speaker as fast as your Wi-Fi will allow. There’s only one problem: it’s still just 2016. Robots are only kinda a thing, which means technology is still not really living up to its full potential. So do any of these translating apps, or are they just glorified foreign-language-to-English electronic dictionaries?

The answer is: they do and they don’t. Many of the apps out there are far from perfect, but there are at least two that will do the trick, especially if you and your fellow conversationalist are willing to practice patience. And here they are.

SayHi Translate ($4.99)

You get what you pay for, which is why this highly rated app will cost you five bucks. That’s a small price to pay for a translating app that actually works, though—and if you trust your fellow travelers, this one definitely does. Based on nearly 8,000 customer reviews, SayHi earns a 4.5/5-star rating on the app store.

Described as user-friendly and just plain cute, SayHi can translate 20-plus languages into English, including tricky ones like Korean and Arabic. All you need to do is tap the blue button, say or type in the words you want to translate, then listen for the translation (which also show up as written text). Whoever you’re conversing with taps the green button to respond, and the process happens in reverse. Users praise SayHi for its ability to easily translate their English words into other languages (given that you speak slowly and clearly), but do say you might need to prep your conversation partner to do the same. The app tends to have problems going the opposite direction. Also, keep in mind that you need wireless to use this app, which could be an issue when traveling abroad.

Google Translate (Free!)

Basically everything that Google touches turns to internet gold, so it should come as no surprise that Google Translate is also up there in terms of app translators. You can tell by the facts that 1) it’s free, and 2) it only has about 400 user reviews, that Google Translate doesn’t quite have the same level of tech power as SayHi. But if you’re on a budget and at least vaguely familiar with the language where you’re traveling, Google Translate should do the trick.

Again, Google Translate seems to do a decent job when it comes to translating the words you speak in English. There’s the added bonus that it automatically detects both languages you’ve designated, meaning you can go back and forth in conversation without hitting a button every time. It can also translate signs if you snap a photo! But it’s a little glitchier than SayHi, and you’ll need to slow your speech way down to get a solid translation every time. Still, for a free app, it’s a good deal.

Review: Apps that Keep You from Getting Lost in Translation [MIT Technology Review]

Lost in translation: do interpreter apps work? [BBC News]

THANK GOD: There’s Finally a Translation App That Works Beautifully [Business Insider]

  • April 5th, 2016
  • Posted in: AVA