Monday, March 8, 2010

Boomers on the move: iTranslate a "universal translator"

Here in the Northeast, it looks a little like spring, finally, after a very tough winter. That got me thinking that many boomers will be planning vacations in the next few months. Also, my kids are headed away on Spring Break. Is there anything on their iPhones that can help them?

In my search I found many iPhone apps that help travelers. One, however, that I found reminded me of Star Trek's Universal Translator. The Free app is called iTranslate by an Austrian developer called Sonico Mobile. To use iTranslate you have to be able to operate your phone and have access to the internet in the country you are visiting. So if you have an iPhone, you have to get an international plan with AT&T to use this app. And it won't work everywhere. AT&T doesn't have agreements with some carriers around the world.  Still, it's very cool, and I can think of a lot of uses for it.

Several years ago our family went to Italy. After touring a wonderful art glass factory in Murano, an island near Venice, we wandered the small island and found ourselves off of the main "tourist" roads and walking in a heavily residential area. We were lost, knew no Italian, and the people we encountered knew no English. They wanted to help us, but we couldn't make ourselves understood. Finally, we were able to make someone understand what we wanted, and we found our way back to the glass factory and the water taxi that waited there.

It would have been wonderful to type what we wanted to say into our phones and have the written words come out on the other side, in Italian. Of course, it wouldn't have made much of a story.

Using iTranslate, the first thing you have to do is select the languages you want to translate from and to. This is an easy process. You press the button that says a language, spin a wheel until you get to the language you want, and press Set Language. 

Another screen opens and you can type in the message you want translated.

You press the Translate button and there you have your answer. We could have used this in Italy.
Some reviewers of this program note that it isn't perfect, and I'm sure it isn't. The translations will sometimes be mechanical and clumsy. However, for occasional travel use, this translation program has a lot going for it, and could really be of some help to traveling boomers and even their children on Spring Break.

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