Over the years, I have been fortunate to see so much of the world. I regularly travel to various foreign countries both for business and for pleasure. Although I always try to learn a few key phrases in the local language of whatever place I am visiting, I am really fluent in only a couple of languages. This is usually enough to get by on, but sometimes it can be tough to decipher the meaning of signs when you don’t speak the language. Fortunately, there are a number of language translation apps that can help in these types of situations.

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1: Google Translate

Google Translate (Figure A) is a free translation app from Google. One thing that sets this app apart is that developers are free to build their own versions of it. On my mobile platform, there really isn’t a “Google sanctioned” version of Google Translate, but there are many third-party apps built on it. All these apps use the same translation engine and typically have a standard feature set.

Figure A

Google Translate really is one of the best translation apps available. It offers an impressive number of supported languages and a text to speech engine.

2: iTranslate

iTranslate (Figure B) lets you perform verbal translations. Simply choose the language being spoken and the language that you want to translate to. The app supports a wide variety of languages.

Figure B

The software’s interface is fairly minimal, but it does provide settings for detecting the end of speech, auto correction, auto capitalization, and transliteration.

iTranslate is available on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

3: Translate Me

Translate Me (Figure C) is another free app for translating from one language to another. One thing I really like about this app is that it has a Swap button. For example, if you are translating from English to Spanish, you can do a swap and translate from Spanish to English. The app also maintains a history of your translated phrases.

Figure C

It’s important to note that this app differs significantly from one platform to the next because it uses the native translation engine. For instance, Figure C shows the Windows Phone version, which uses the Bing translation engine. However, the Android version uses the Google translation engine.

4: Ask Ziggy

Ask Ziggy (Figure D) isn’t a dedicated translation app, but it does do a good job of translating phrases. It provides a Siri/Cortana-like interface that allows you to verbally interact with your smartphone.

Figure D

Ziggy requires you to manually enable translations. When you do, it will translate anything you say. When testing Ask Ziggy, I made the mistake of saying, “translate good morning.” It translated the phrase “translate good morning.” I got over the initial learning curve in about five minutes and the app seemed to do a good job.

Ask Ziggy is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

5: Online-translator.com

Online-Translator.com (Figure E) allows you to translate from or to a number of languages. It can automatically detect the language that needs to be translated, although you have the option of specifying the language manually. The app features a Topic area containing categories such as business, cars, and travel. The selection of topics presumably affects the way in which certain words are translated. The app also retains a history of translations in case you need to refer back to a phrase.

Figure E

You can use the Online-Translator.com app directly through the Online-Translator.com Web site, but free apps are also available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

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Other good tools?

What translation apps would you add to this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.