There haven’t been many episodes of Star Trek that didn’t rely upon the ‘universal translator’ to some degree, but while the idea of a device that could convert speech into another language is very compelling, it’s one that’s yet to be realised in any significant way.

There haven’t been many episodes of Star Trek that didn’t rely upon the ‘universal translator’ to some degree, but while the idea of a device that could convert speech into another language is very compelling, it’s one that’s yet to be realised in any significant way.

Google — surprise, surprise — is working on it though, and its new Google Translate iPhone app is extremely impressive. Google first launched its mobile translation service in 2008, but that simply offered a smartphone-friendly text-based version of its web translation service — you type in a word or phrase, choose a target language and get a written translation in return.

The Google Translate iPhone app, however, takes things to the next level and adds speech recognition to its language translation skills. In other words (no pun intended), you just need to speak into the iPhone microphone and the app will detect what you’ve said and not only provide an appropriate translation on-screen for 50 languages in a huge font, but will also provide an audio playback of the translation in 24 of them.

So, even if you don’t have much faith in your Swedish accent, you can still order a couple of beers by getting the waiter to listen to your iPhone. In addition to English, the app can also translate speech from 15 other languages, so if you have a problem understanding someone speaking in Polish or Portuguese, you can simply point them at the microphone and get the app to translate for you.

It all sounds a bit like something from science fiction, but incredibly, it works. You need to speak clearly for the speech recognition to be accurate and you’ll need an internet connection for new translations (old ones are stored in the app for later reference), but the Google Translate iPhone app is an invaluable tool for making yourself understood overseas. And, of course, it’s free.

[Google Translate iPhone app on iTunes]

Share with friends

Follow us on

Most recent motorhome reviews

The Practical Motorhome Bürstner Lyseo t 744 review – 1 - The 2017 Bürstner Lyseo t 744 is 7.49m (24
The Practical Motorhome Moto-Trek X-Cite EB review – 1 - The slide-out takes the X-Cite EB's overall width to 2.7 metres and it is operated easily by just flicking the switch above the settee (© Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Chausson Welcome 611 Travel Line review – 1 - This Fiat Ducato-based four-berth packs a lot into its 6.96m length (© Lizzie Pope/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Shire Phoenix ML Black Edition review – 1 - This 3500kg MTPLM ’van lives up to its name, but Shire Conversions can do it in other colours (© Nick Harding/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Bailey Autograph 79-4 review – 1 - The 7.79m-long Autograph 79-4 is the only model in this line-up of Bailey motorhomes with an island-bed layout (© Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Elddis Accordo 120 review – 1 - The Peugeot Boxer-based Elddis Accordo 120 has an MTPLM of 3300kg (© Niall Hampton/Practical Motorhome)