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 Marquis Majestic 196 review – 1 - Fitting six berths and six travel seats into a 3500kg motorhome is no mean feat – does it work? (© Phil Russell/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Swift Bessacarr 597 review – 1 - The ’van tested has an MTPLM of 3850kg, but there is a version with a 3500kg MTPLM (and a lower payload) – read more in our Swift Bessacarr 597 review (© Peter Baber/Practical Motorhome)

Rapido 8094dF

£70,600OTR

The Practical Motorhome Rapido 8094dF review – 1 - You get a lot in this 3500kg MTPLM motorhome, but 3700kg and 4.4-tonne chassis upgrades are available (© Sarah Wakely/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome 2018 Auto-Trail Tracker LB Lo-Line review – 1 - The Auto-Trail Tracker LB is available in Lo-Line (as pictured) or Hi-Line form (© Peter Baber/Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome 2018 Elddis Accordo 105 review – 1 - The Elddis Accordo 105's Azure Blue aluminium sidewalls are new for the 2018 touring season (© Practical Motorhome)
The Practical Motorhome Chausson Flash 716 review – 1 - Priced from £49,500, this new five-berth low-profile from Chausson has a licence-friendly MTPLM of 3500kg (© Practical Motorhome)