App type: Translator
Operating system: iOS or Android
Reviewed on: iPhone 4
Google translate video review – How not to chat up foreigners
The Google Translate app for the iPhone is free, and promises to translate the text of 57 languages and the speech of 15. The translated results of 23 languages can be spoken aloud directly from the phone.
In our quick tests we found it to be quite effective, but the translations were quite literal and – as single words seem to be translated – the resulting sentences aren’t always the most natural. On some occasions the translations could lead to some misinterpretation, while on others the entire meaning was lost.
Other limitations are that the keyboard to enter text has only 26 letters – some languages use more or different letters – and you need a quiet area if you want to use the speech recognition software. When we tested it in a busy restaurant, several repetitions were required.
On the whole, though, Google Translate could be a very useful and fun tool. Most of our testers were surprised by how well it performed, and its received positive reviews in Apple’s App Store.
It’s also very easy to use. There are two languages written at the top of the screen, and pressing each of them brings up the other language options. When choosing the ‘translate from’ language, a small microphone indicates whether the language can be spoken into the phone for translation. When choosing the ‘translate to’ language, a speaker icon indicates whether the results can be read aloud by the phone.
A handy button between the two languages helps you toggle the direction of translation, and recent results can be viewed for later reference. The written translations can be viewed in large text on the screen when the phone is turned on its side.
You need access to the internet for the translations to work.
The Google Translate app is also available for Android phones through the Android Market.