All too often, we’re abroad and reading a menu somewhere when a single word will throw us. Often it will be one of those situations where you’ve decided that you’d rather not lug a translation book around with you – which is fair enough. Many people will, rather than look it up and learn a new word in a different language, simply wait and ask the waiting staff. It doesn’t need to be this way! Your smartphone is the best translation device in the world, and it doesn’t even require apps if you don’t want it to.
It all depends on whether you’re a roamer or not – whether you use your data connection abroad. Some do, some don’t, but regardless, there are apps that cater for all audiences, providing you with a translation dictionary that’ll work whether or not you’re connected. This can be especially handy when you’re on the plane or travelling through the endless amount of under-the-mountain tunnels on the roads near the French border to Italy – places that weren’t built with phone use in mind.
For those who do use data it’s as simple as jumping on Google Translate, but that may not always assist with your punctuation, or be as quick or as easy to use as an in-built translator that makes use of the camera on your smartphone. O2 Samsung Galaxy S4 users, even on Pay and Go tariffs, may find themselves at the advantage when abroad when they’re able to whip their phones out, point their cameras at a menu and receive the translation almost immediately, as you won’t have to worry about slowly inputting the Italian for “tomato” as the waiter stands next to, wondering when you’ll give in!
It’s also a very good way of teaching yourself new language skills. Apps like Duolingo are available for Android devices for free, and will help teach you a range of new languages – English, Spanish, German, French, Portuguese and Italian, while you’re on the move. It’s a good way to pass the time on the plane if you’re not one of those who sleeps at ten thousand feet, and means you’ll get off the plane with a head full of new words to try out from the moment you stop for a bottle of water at the airport.
Smartphones are such powerful, capable machines, so it’s a wonder why they’re so rarely used for this sort of purpose by travellers. Most of it boils down to familiarity. Smartphones, for the older generations especially, are not something they’ve grown up with, but encouraging your parents to use an app like Duolingo may increase their techno-literacy as well as their linguistic skills.
For those who primarily speak English, it can seem as though there are few reasons to venture outside that language, given how widely-spread it is used. But learning an additional language is a great way to test your mind and give yourself the ability to blend in like a local when you’re abroad. At the very least, you will never again receive surprise mushrooms on a pizza.
About the Author
Lily Sommers is a freelance UK-based writer who loves anything to do with technology, print media, art and design and the latest developments from companies like Panasonic and O2. Her love of playing guitar takes up most of his spare time and she’s always available on Twitter and Google+