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Of all the challenges when traveling abroad, language barriers might be the most difficult. And there’s just no way around it. At some point in your adventure you’ll have to communicate with a local, be it telling a taxi driver directions, asking for recommendations or – even worse – explaining symptoms to a doctor. Plus, more travelers than ever are looking to get immersed in the culture of a destination through connection with locals. The solution? Picking up one of the best pocket translators.
Pocket translators are compact devices that quickly translate between two languages in real-time (although they usually work with several languages). This means you can speak into the device and it’ll quickly say the phrase in the intended language. Because pocket translators are designed specifically for translation, these devices are much faster and more advanced than your normal smartphone translator app. For example, if you’re fluent in two languages, then you’ll know that Google Translate often makes strange choices or errors (especially if you’re using slang, working with accents or trying to speak casually).
With the best pocket translators, you get fluid, natural communication in both directions – no matter the speaker’s voice. If you’re looking for a more rewarding, safer travel experience, check out the best pocket translators below.
What Are the Best Pocket Translators?
Because they’re a relatively new invention, discerning the good pocket translators from the bad can be tough. Below are a few features that we kept in mind while shopping for the best pocket translators.
Languages: Obviously, the more languages the better, so we’ve chosen translators with dozens of languages (up to 104 at the most advanced). However, you want to make sure that a pocket translator is proficient in all the languages it supports. For example, some translators might support fewer languages than others, but they might also offer faster, more accurate translations. If you don’t plan on using too many languages, just look out for a high-quality translator that can nail your intended language.
Connectivity: Most pocket translators feature built-in data connections for translating without any other device or WiFi connection. Some also work by connecting to your smartphone and using your phone’s data or WiFi connection. The former (translators with built-in data) take a slight edge, as you can use them anywhere, anytime without a smartphone connection. However, with a smartphone-connected pocket translator, there’s no need for a separate data plan and the device is usually more compact.
Battery Life: Keeping devices charged is always tricky while traveling, and, sadly it’s also more of a disaster when your device runs out of juice (say, when you’re miles from the hotel and totally lost). Battery life with pocket translators varies quite a bit (even between high-end models) so be aware of this while shopping.
Data: As mentioned, most of the best pocket translators use built-in data connections to function. Luckily, all of our data-connected picks include a free two-year data plan. Still, you’ll want to check two things in regards to data: coverage and cost to pay for data after your free two years are up.
The Best Pocket Translators
Whether you’re traveling or just learning a new language at home, the best pocket translators make for an easy and effective communication tool for two-way translation and conversation.
1. Pocketalk Two-Way Voice Translator (Model S)
Pocketalk is one of the biggest names in pocket translators, and their new S model is probably the best all-around device. Like their older, best-selling device, the Pocketalk S offers fast, two-way translation between 82 languages. A handful of the languages are only translated to text (that you can show to the person you’re talking to), but an 82-language capacity is still very impressive. The device can also help with figure out foreign currency exchanges, measurements and temperature.
One of the most exciting upgrades with the Pocketalk S over the previous-gen model is an eight-megapixel camera for fast image translation. This comes in handy for things like menus, road signs and, say, notes from your Airbnb host (it can pick up handwriting as well as print).
The Pocketalk uses built-in LTE data connectivity and works in over 130 countries. If you’re going to an unsupported country or you don’t have a signal, the translator works over WiFi, hotspot or swappable SIM card too. You get two years of free data after purchasing the device, and it costs just $50 a year after that. Battery life isn’t the greatest with 4.5 hours of continuous use and two days of standby, but a decently fast hour charging time makes up for that a bit.
2. Langogo Genesis AI Translator
The Langogo Genesis is another great option for breaking language barriers while abroad. The device uses AI to translate between over 100 languages and features a simple one-button design for two-way verbal translation (Plus, it can translate Chinese, English, Japanese and Korean while offline). Because it uses AI, the device also gets better with use and builds on an already fast, nuanced translating system.
In addition to language translation, the Langogo can also convert currency and show weather forecasts, nearby attractions and other local information.
Like the Pocketalk, the Langogo Genesis uses a data connection (or WiFi when needed) and comes with a free two-year data plan. The data connection works in over 60 countries, which should be more than enough for most adventures. Plus, the device conveniently doubles as a mobile hotspot for other devices (purchase of a separate data plan is required for this feature).
Another feature we like with the Langogo is battery life. It’ll work continuously for six to seven hours and boasts a standby time of around a week. In other words, it’s less likely that you’ll be lost after a day of exploring.
3. Cheetah CM Language Translator
This pocket translator from Cheetah takes a slightly different approach that might suit some travelers better. Instead of a built-in screen, the Cheetah CM is just a small, single-button device equipped with a mic and a speaker. So, just click the button, speak into it (or have the other person speak), and it’ll repeat the translated word or phrase right back. It connects to a companion app on your smartphone, using your phone’s data service or wifi to function. This has two benefits: the device is smaller than others and boasts a much better battery life with 24 hours of use and 180 days of standby.
The Cheetah CM is powered by Microsoft Ai and boasts fast, accurate voice-to-voice translations. If you want to see chat history, it’s all transcribed in the Cheetah app. You also get 42 languages, all of which work for direct voice-to-voice communication. Overall, it’s a sleek, easy-to-use device that’s great for verbal interactions.