The ability to communicate with people when abroad is undoubtedly one of the most important tools to have on your travels, be it for trying to catch a taxi, ordering some food or simply checking into a hotel. If you arrive somewhere with all your plans sorted, only to be left unable to express yourself should things unexpectedly change, you could find yourself in a lot of unwanted bother. And, with over six and a half thousand spoken languages worldwide, this could happen at any point along your travels, meaning you need to be prepared for getting into difficulties when up against a language barrier. Luckily for you, there now exists a whole range of websites and smartphone applications catering specifically to this type of event occurring, in which you find yourself unable to communicate with someone due to lacking knowledge of the local dialect. These translation tools not only allow you to translate individual words, they also allow you to input entire paragraphs, either through typing or speaking directly into the device’s microphone, thus, to a large extent eliminating any language barrier that may exist.
With that in mind, we have put together a list containing the top five translations tools for travellers, whether it’s Spanish, Chinese, Russian or Catalan. Communication is key for making the most of your travels and with these carefully selected platforms, you will be able to get your point across without having to study and learn an entire language. In creating the list, we reviewed each platform, picking out each one’s highlights, what makes it unique and its potential drawbacks. With so many similar translations tools on offer, it can be difficult to know which one is best to use, hence we took into account a range of factors to ensure that only the best were selected. The pros and cons are also listed in an easy-to-read set of bullet points below each review.
One of the first factors that was taken into consideration when reviewing each translation tool was the number of languages being offered. While the majority of platforms included more popular languages like Spanish, English and French, many also give users the choice of less common ones, such as Polish, Catalan and Zulu. Google Translate was the platform that came out on top when it came to quantity, thanks to the more than 100 languages it has featured. However, while having such a large number of languages may be useful for one or two words, it was also important to consider the quality and reliability of the translations. There is little point in offering such a wide range if the person you are trying to communicate with can still not understand what it is you are trying to say. For that reason we also took into account the overall accuracy of the translations, even more so than quantity. Linguee, for example, while only offering translation of 25 languages, scours the internet for official documents in order to offer suggestions for translations. This makes for a far more reliable system than that of Google Translate or Bing Translator, both of which do not thoroughly check their sources for accuracy. Therefore, when reviewing the platforms, we tried to find the ones that offered a combination of a good selection of languages together with a good standard of translation.
Data roaming charges when travelling have always been a concern for those keeping a close eye on their budget as they can add up and become considerably expensive. This means that any mobile application or website that requires internet connection to function becomes largely defunct when on the move, while waiting to gain access to free Wi-Fi can be awkward when travelling somewhere remote, like the Amazon or the desert. Hence, those platforms that offer the ability to download their content so that it can be accessed in an offline mode are infinitely useful to travellers and ultimately come out on top of those that require continual connection. Not only do they save on data roaming charges, they also preserve your phone battery, as using 3G use quickly drains it when activated. Google Translate is one example of an application whose languages can be downloaded for use offline, meaning you can continue to translate sentences and words even in airplane mode, meaning you will not be limited to preparing all your set phrases before leaving the hotel room or cafe.
Adverts were also taken into account when reviewing the traveler translations tools, especially those that hindered and distracted from the platform itself. For example, Reverso offers free, useful content, however its large banner ads make the page look crowded and difficult to quickly take in all the information that is being displayed. This means that if you are looking just to speedily translate a couple of words, it can be difficult to then work out where the translation has appeared. Even worse than ad banners are sites that use pop-up adverts which appear in front of the screen you are looking at, giving you no choice but to hit cancel on them. These can be very irritating and lead to users clicking on the pop-up by accident, taking them to a new website that they do not want to be on. Although clearly these platforms need to find some form of revenue, there are certainly more tactical ways of implementing them than pop-ups while more relevant ones, such as advertising travel products, would be a much more useful than cat food, for example.
A significant other factors that was considered when reviewing each translation platform was its user interface and how easy it was to locate an activity that suits your preferences. A good, user-friendly interface with simple aesthetic is an obvious, yet often underrated, aspect of many websites, and something that can ultimately influence the entire experience for customers trying to find good, reliable translations. While a website may offer a vast array of options and added features, an overcrowded and confusing homepage can make using even the platform’s most simple function difficult for many users. More often than not, the best sites are those with a simple, minimalistic aesthetic that make no attempt to over complicate the process by adding too many extra features, while they also seem to be the ones with the fastest loading speeds. As previously mentioned, those that have an abundance of pop-up adverts and promotions can also make searching for a quick translation a more stressful process than it needs to be. Therefore, we made sure that, when reviewing the various translation tools, we considered the overall aesthetic and how easy it was to find translation you were looking for before assessing anything else.
Overall, this list provides the most useful selection of translation tools from among hundreds, combining all of the above features to single out only the top five. Getting across what you would like to say can be a difficult, if not sometimes impossible, challenge when travelling abroad. Any number of scenarios could come up when you are in a foreign country, and the ability to communicate with people is an essential tool that you will undoubtedly require at some point or another. Hence, we have taken into account the aforementioned factors to provide you with only the very best platforms for you could possibly need for translation, be it French, Spanish, Japanese, Turkish or Afrikaans. With this list you have everything you need in one convenient place, saving you time in scrolling through pages of different options in an attempt to find the best one.