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Travelling overseas? This is the only device you’ll need
New translation devices are helping to break down language barriers abroad.
English speakers are the world’s luckiest travellers. But occasionally – or perhaps quite often for adventurous types – language barriers can make everything from ordering food to connecting with locals a farcical, even impossible, game of charades.
Websites and apps such as Google Translate, which use increasingly sophisticated algorithms to learn and process languages, started coming to the rescue more than a decade ago, but remain limited. More recently, dedicated devices have emerged with the processing power and all-round translation-focused functionality to make relatively accurate two-way translation possible – albeit slightly stilted – for people on the go.
With research suggesting 10 per cent of adults don’t travel overseas due to language barriers, these instant conversation starters make it easier to communicate, understand and – most importantly – order food from foreign menus.
Five translation tools to help break down language barriers while travelling
Travis Touch Plus
Operated via touchscreen and voice command, this sleek device fits in the palm of your hand, translating speech as both audio and text for 12 hours per charge. The new Touch Plus is a step up from the 2017 launch model, as it translates 105 languages with a high degree of accuracy. It supports some languages offline, but with less accuracy.
Available from: travistranslator.com for $199.
Best for: Intrepid travellers – whatever the country, Travis probably speaks the language.
W2T Plus uses two Bluetooth earpieces in conjunction with an app, so a smart device with data connection is required. Two users can speak and listen in their choice of 36 languages, with accurate results partly thanks to this technology’s ability to recognise 84 accents, including 18 Spanish and 13 English accents. If you don’t fancy handing an earpiece to strangers, show a text translation on your device’s screen. W2T Plus earpieces operate for five hours before needing to dock in their charging pod.
Available from: timekettle.co for $353.
Best for: Making friends – aside from the slight time lag, W2T Plus lets you chat naturally with Katja or Katut.
Developed in Australia, this smartwatch provides audio translations of speech in 27 languages with about 85 per cent accuracy, using wifi, Bluetooth or a 3G network via its nano SIM card. Offering various additional features, from monitoring heart rate and steps walked, to handling phone calls, email and text messages, the Time2Translate operates for 10 hours in smartwatch mode or 48 hours in standby.
Available from: lingmointernational.com from $399.
Best for: Travelling light – with Time2Translate on your wrist, there’s one less gadget to juggle and keep track of.
A slim, rectangular device that slips into a pocket or clips to clothes, this is an audio translator as well as a multilingual speech-to-text transcriber when used in conjunction with the app. It supports 12 languages with a self-assessed 97 per cent accuracy, and also offers 24/7 live human translation at US$2 per minute – potentially priceless for complicated and urgent communication. The ONE Mini doesn’t work offline, but can be used to play music via Bluetooth, and operates for 10 hours per charge.
Available from: transnone.com for $146.
Best for: Business – show who’s boss when the ONE Mini connects you to a personal translator.
This compact rectangular device is designed for speedy offline translation, as it’s programmed with essential words and travel phrases in just four languages: Mandarin, Japanese, Korean and Spanish. Translation is only one-way, from English into the selected language, and the volume can’t be adjusted, but ili will operate for three days with regular use, anywhere, any time, because no phone or wifi connection is required.
Available from: iamili.com for US$199.
Best for: Travelling off the grid – from climbing the Andes to going incognito in Tokyo, ili’s got your back.
NOTE: Prices are in Australian dollars, as presented on manufacturers’ online stores on 21 August. The exception is ili, which ships to Australia but is only sold in US dollars.